Monday, October 25, 2010

GreenTech; Boosting Solar Energy

GreenTech; Boosting Solar Panel Energy Efficiency
"I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait till oil and coal run out before we tackle that." - Thomas Edison

As Green Technology expands, the consumption of solar energy has gained rapid momentum. Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy however its efficiency, while improving, is not quite amazing yet. But with upcoming inventions, tremendous effort is being put to increase efficiency. The biggest advantage of solar panels is that it is pollution free. The normal solar panel efficiency can easily be used for running various devices at home, while high efficiency panels are used to run industrial machines consuming high energy.
 The latest technologies are applied to increase the energy output and efficiency of the solar panels. Thin film solar cells coated with light absorbing materials have recently been put into use to increase solar panel efficiency to about 40%. Silicon wafer cells are the most widely used solar panels and have a high efficiency.
SiOnyx Solar Panel with Black Silicon Cells
 Modern technologies like magnetic solar modules, the advent of nanotechnology and nano particles can potentially boost efficiency up to 80%. The solar cells are made up of nano particles, which are capable of actually harnessing the infrared radiation from the sun in abundance, even at night! These are not only highly efficient but are also cost effective.
Harvard University spinoff company, SiOnyx, makes black silicon. They have recently commercialized a semiconductor technology with the potential to improve solar-cell efficiency and light sensors in digital cameras. 
    The Beverly, Mass based company announced their collaboration with laser manufacturer Coherent and Vulcan Capital, the investment firm started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. The idea behind commercializing its "black silicon" technology in consumer electronics and solar-cell manufacturing comes from the increase of surface area once the silicon has been sprayed.
This semiconductor process blast silicon with a series of laser pulses in a controlled gas environment. The effect is to re-form the crystalline structure of silicon so that the surface captures more light.
CEO of SiOnyx, Stephen Saylor said, "It makes it almost a totally antireflective surface. Almost no light bounces off the stuff, so it's a very efficient way to capture more light in a layer of silicon."  
Other companies have techniques to improve the efficiency of solar cells and bring down the manufacturing costs. Silicon Valley-based Innovalight, for example, has signed deals with solar manufacturers to use its "silicon ink" technology which treats silicon material so that it produces more electricity.
Technology developed at IBM's research labs is inching closer to producing affordable commercial solar panels. Japanese manufacturer Solar Frontier said it has signed a deal to develop thin-film solar cells originally designed by IBM. With changes to the manufacturing process that incorporate its technology, solar-cell efficiency can improve by a few percentages.
One of the challenges for getting SiOnyx's black silicon technology into production is the cost of changing solar manufacturing equipment, but most companies have figured out that even a small efficiency improvement can be financially very significant.
IBM researchers last year showed they were able to improve the efficiency of solar cells made from a combination of copper, zinc, tin, sulfur and selenium,(CZTS) hitting an efficiency mark of 9.6 percent in the lab. Although they are generally less efficient than silicon, thin-film solar cells promise to be cheaper because less material is needed.
"We are interested in exploring CZTS for its evolutionary compatibility with our CIS thin film technology. The goals of the project correspond with Solar Frontier's mission to combine both economical and ecological solar energy solutions," Satoru Kuriyagawa, Solar Frontier's chief technology officer, said in a statement.
"The history of the solar market is incremental improvements," says CEO Steven Saylor. "But these small efficiency increases are dramatic given the overall scale of the energy industry."
I hope this helped you to get some idea about solar panel efficiency. If you are able to convert any percentage of the energy it takes to run your house with solar power, try to equip yourself with the best solar panels available with maximum output.

-Jean Claude Audet III


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