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MIT Aims for Thinner Solar Cells
7/9/2013

MIT researchers use computer simulations to shuffle through different materials in the search for the thinnest possible solar cells. (Source: MIT)
MIT researchers use computer simulations to shuffle through different materials in the search for the thinnest possible solar cells. (Source: MIT)

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kfield
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Manufacturing costs?
kfield   7/9/2013 9:55:36 AM
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Exciting news about this research--I wonder if the researchers have evaluated the potential manufacturing costs for these new, thinner cells?

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Manufacturing costs?
R_Colin_Johnson   7/9/2013 3:40:20 PM
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The researchers say that one of their next steps will be to look for ways to economically mass produce its thin solar cells, but first they have to settle on a formulation. The good news is that thinner solar cells use inherently less material, so should be economical of materials, but we don't know yet the manufacturing costs until they choose a material and characterize it. They plan to experiment with different formulations, hoping to find one that is both efficient and economical to mass produce.

PasadenaDave
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Solar Cells
PasadenaDave   7/9/2013 4:33:18 PM
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With the advent of cheaper solar cells, I don't expect the price to be sigficantly lower, you still have the guys crawling all over the roof installing the things, hooking up to an inverter, all the wiring etc.....

Dave

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Solar Cells
R_Colin_Johnson   7/9/2013 5:08:18 PM
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You are right. The researhers also point out that because their material does not need to be protected from UV, moisture and oxygen that the installations will also use less material for off-sets, covering and such.

Tom Murphy
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Thin is Good. Cheap is Better.
Tom Murphy   7/9/2013 9:56:34 PM
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Which would do more for society, an expensive thin solar cell or a fat cheap one? I understand that one drives the other, but right now I'd rather seem the emphasis on driving high-volume use of solar everywhere as very, very low prices. 

jeremybirch
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Re: Thin is Good. Cheap is Better.
jeremybirch   7/10/2013 8:02:35 AM
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There are other ways to get thin without lower efficiency eg using proton implant shearing techniques rather than diamond saws. If the efficiency is much lower than 20% then the market won't be there in many cases - the limiting factor is how much area you have for deployment (eg you roof at home). In addition other elements of the system scale with area and hence the cost goes up - if this is only a few atoms thick it will need to be bonded to some thicker substrate to give it strength so that it can last through installation and long term use in the elements!

 

Sanjib.A
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Re: Manufacturing costs?
Sanjib.A   7/10/2013 11:21:38 AM
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Curious to know, is it a different technology than the one researched by MIT: depositing organic photovoltaic material on flexible substrate (like paper) by "chemical vapor deposition"? (Link below)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flexible_solar_cell_research

Looks different, but I was thinking that the idea of printing solar cell on paper as it is mentioned in the link above was good except the low efficiency number of 1%. In this case also, the efficiency number 1-2% is not very encouraging...isn't it?  

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Thin is Good. Cheap is Better.
R_Colin_Johnson   7/10/2013 11:22:15 AM
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Yes, the whole world is on the side of "cheaper is better than thinner," but there are applications--like spacecraft--where thinner/lighter is worth the extra money. And as is often the case, aerospace technologies get cheaper as they become more popular, so thinner might just meet cheaper down the road :)

R_Colin_Johnson
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Re: Manufacturing costs?
R_Colin_Johnson   7/10/2013 11:25:49 AM
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Yes you are right that organic solar cells are already being developed for deposition on thin, ultra-cheap substrates like paper. These researchers claim that their materials are better than organic in terms of longevity, since they do not deteriorate in the presense of UV, moisture and oxygen. Also this work is aimed at testing the limits of "limbo" science--how low (thin) can you go! 

Tom Murphy
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Re: Thin is Good. Cheap is Better.
Tom Murphy   7/10/2013 11:25:50 AM
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Without doing a lot of research, does anyone know the propsective costs of this technology vs othe solar cell materials? Or is it still just too early to even speculate on that? 

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