A nanotechnology design improves the efficiency of thin-film solar cells. An important breakthrough in working to commercially viable solar power because thin-film cells are cheaper than photovoltaics, but efficiency has been an issue. The two key elements in making solar energy widespread and a credible challenger to petroleum-based energy are lower costs (both in installation and maintenance) and higher efficiencies. Anything that works to combine those two elements is a step in the right direction.
I just love blog posts that combine nanotechnology and solar power.
From the link:
Thin-film solar cells are less expensive than traditional photovoltaics sliced from wafers, but they’re not as efficient at converting the energy in sunlight into electricity. Now a Newton, MA-based startup is developing a nanostructured design that overcomes one of the main constraints on the performance of thin-film solar cells. Solasta fabricates on arrays of nanopillars, rather than flat areas, boosting the efficiency of amorphous silicon solar cells to about 10 percent–still less than crystalline silicon panels, but more than the thin-film amorphous silicon panels on the market today. The company says that the design won’t require new equipment or materials and that it will license its technology to amorphous-silicon manufacturers at the end of this year.
Pillar power: This microscope image shows the layers of a solar cell built on a nanopillar substrate. The core of each pillar is coated first with metal, then amorphous silicon, and then a transparent conductive oxide.
The New York Times has an AP article today that looks back at the last ten years and makes a few projections for the next ten covering nine sectors: banking, real estate, retail, health, manufacturing, automobiles, energy, airlines and media/technology.
From the link, here’s what the article predicts for energy:
THE DECADE AHEAD: By 2019, many cars may get 50 miles per gallon or better. Improved gas mileage, rising prices for gasoline and more energy-efficient homes are seen keeping demand for oil and natural gas at moderate levels in the U.S.
Even so, nearly half of the nation’s electricity still will come from coal even with more wind and solar energy sources.