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.
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?
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!
No this is just under simulation and modeling phase, the actual manufacturing cost calculation will not be possible at present. But it will surely lead to all the new manufacturing techniuqe being introduced as all the materials being discussed here are not being used in the present day solar panel manufacturing.
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.....
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.
The cost of the materials is likely to be the smallest component of the total cost. Photovoltaics are semi-conductor electronics, and the cells are actually made by a wafer fab. Wafer fabs are enormously expensive, and the single biggest part of the cost of the cells will be an allocated share of the cost to build the factory that makes them.
And that's just the cost of the cells. The cells must be incorporated in an installation, and someone will have to build and install the panels.
The key here is what this potential new approach will allow in terms of application, whether it might allow applications that aren't currently possible, and whether it might be better in some existing applications.
This is interesting and promising, but there's a long way between theory and proof of concept, and an even longer way between proof of concept and volume manufacture.
I agree and would add that only 50 percent of the cost of PV installations is in solar cells themselves--the other 50 percent is in the mounts, stand-offs, glass coverings and such. Since thinner solar cells are lighter and more durable, then there should also be cost savings from their easier installation.
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.
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!
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 :)