David Kirkpatrick

February 19, 2010

Broadband Solar offers latest breakthrough

Seems like I’ve been doing a whole lot of solar blogging lately, and here’s the latest breakthrough courtesy of Broadband Solar. This sounds more like an incremental improvement that will possibly lead to commercially viable thin-film solar cells rather than a game-changer ready for market. Even if this announcement doesn’t make it immediately easier or cheaper to put a bank of thin-film cells on the roof of your house, it is one more step toward that goal

From the second link:

Inexpensive thin-film solar cells aren’t as efficient as conventional solar cells, but a new coating that incorporates nanoscale metallic particles could help close the gap. Broadband Solar, a startup spun out of Stanford University late last year, is developing coatings that increase the amount of light these solar cells absorb.

Based on computer models and initial experiments, an amorphous silicon cell could jump from converting about 8 percent of the energy in light into electricity to converting around 12 percent. That would make such cells competitive with the leading thin-film solar cells produced today, such as those made by First Solar, headquartered in Tempe, AZ, says Cyrus Wadia, codirector of the Cleantech to Market Program in the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley. Amorphous silicon has the advantage of being much more abundant than the materials used by First Solar. The coatings could also be applied to other types of thin-film solar cells, including First Solar’s, to increase their efficiency.

Solar antenna: The square at the center is an array of test solar cells being used to evaluate a coating that contains metallic nanoantennas tuned to the solar spectrum.
Credit: Brongersma lab, Stanford

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