Researchers at North Carolina State University just recently discovered a new technique for improving the connections amongst stacked solar cells; this should end up improving the efficiency of solar energy panels, and could end up reducing the overall cost of solar energy production. These new connections could allow the cells to operate at a solar concentration of seventy-thousand suns worth of energy, and eliminating the majority of wasted voltage.
“We have discovered that by inserting a very thin film of gallium arsenide into the connecting junction of stacked cells we can virtually eliminate voltage loss without blocking any of the solar energy,” says Dr. Salah Bedair, a professor of electrical engineering at NC State and senior author of a paper describing the work. This is a significant breakthrough, since solar cell designers regularly need to ensure that there is no leakage and siphoning off of the voltage; it could easily allow stacked solar cells to handle high-intensity solar energies and improving conversion efficiency. “This should reduce overall costs for the energy industry because, rather than creating large, expensive solar cells, you can use much smaller cells that produce just as much electricity by absorbing intensified solar energy from concentrating lenses. And concentrating lenses are relatively inexpensive,” Bedair says.
Another important breakthrough that occurred in July of this year has to do with the use of plasmonic black metals. The Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory research team has made some discoveries utilizing nanostructured black metals that are designed to have low reflectivity and to absorb visible and infrared light at a very high level. While not precisely a “classic” metal, this concept is more along the lines of black silicon. When the silicon is roughened at the nano-level, it increasing its ability to absorb solar energy by creating multiple reflections within it; it increases the surface’s ability to trap the wavelength spectrum of the sun, which could be huge for solar energy.
The team discovered a method that allows them to control the efficiency of the absorption rate, and allows them to turn the metals as deep black as they need it to be. The potential for even more advanced photovoltaic technology is extremely exciting, and by incorporating this nanostructure technology, the future of solar energy looks extremely bright. If you think about how this could be applied to other systems, the implications are enormous; perhaps future vehicles will be made from an outer layer of this material, and companies will create super-efficient solar-powered vehicles.
Both of these discoveries are fascinating breakthroughs in the realm of solar energy, and it will be interesting to see how this is practically applied as we move into the next stages of clean energy in the twenty-first century. If you are currently interested in pursuing solar power in North Carolina and are a home or business owner, you can’t go wrong with considering solar panels as an investment. The future of clean and efficient renewable energy is in your hands; don’t give it a second thought.
Jared is an advocate of solar energy and solar technology who does regular research on how to better improve solar technology.
A Breakthrough In Solar Energy Technology,