Not only is there a clear win in terms of cost and lowered toxicity, but it also takes tofu out of the market! This is a clear win all around.
Seriously, it's interesting that this was not looked at earlier. Obviously the current solution was deemed 'good enough' and researchers moved on to other things. Kudos to Dr. Major for going back over that assumption and improving on the process.
Really good material to forward to researcher so that they donot give up on alternatives to costly and inefficient processes/materials. And as far as Tofu goes, i also donot like it as its apperance and taste do not match.
While we're on the topic of solar panesl, what's the state of the art in flexible panels?
I would love to be able to work outside under a golf umbrella whose panels were proving the power to keep my laptop running. The panels wouldn't have to survive "civil servant's brolly" regimes of folding, just be flexible enough to allow the canopy to be closed.
That would imply around 40 - 50 watts from a 2-metre diameter. Around 3m square, so 15 - 17 watts/m. square. How close is that to reality?
OK... let's say a golf umbrella 1.5 m in diameter, the area would be ∏ x R2 = 1.75 m2 approx. Now decent solar radiation is 1000 W / m2 so this would give us 1750W. Assume efficiency of 10% and you've got 175 W - even 5% efficiency would give you 87W. So way enough.
Futurlec offer a lot of small solar cells that you could build into the folds:
Those cells appear to be based on glass panels. Even if they're "tiled" for flexibility, the weight for the area would be considerable. A practical material has to be not stiffer or heavier than perhaps a thick vinyl. Flexible PCBs have been around since the 1970s; the glass is the problem.
I'm looking for stuff that's at least at the engineering sample stage at the moment. Speculating a bit, perhaps a material could be woven from a receptor material on thin wire and a transparent insulator? That would yield a "solar cloth".
@perl_geek - yes, they are fairly standard cells, just small. and in large quantities they would be heavy. I've seen them used as phone chargers, but a laptop charger would be better done with larger types - you could maybe make a fold-up shelter based on them, but it would still be fairly heavy. It seems flexible solar cells are on the way, but not quite a commercial reality yet.
You could probably have a solar cell the same size as your laptop lid and while it could not run the laptop indefinitely, it would considerably extend your battery life and could charge it fully when not in use. Probably even more applicable to tablets.
@perl, i think a lot of researchers are working on printable solar cells that donot need silicon or glass but can be printed like PCB. The downside is the efficiency but barring that the applications are tremendous.
@David, sorry to be the party pooper but in your area calculations, your forgot a factor 0.25 as you consider diameter and not radius to be 1.5m. So ur total power output will be about 22W for 5% efficiency.
@Wilber.... diameter is 1.5 m....divide by 2 for radius gives 0.75 m...square it gives 0.5625....multiply by pi (3,14159) gives 1.7671 m2, I used 1.75m2. Which in full sun woould give 1750W radiation. The big question is what sort of efficiency you could get with a flexible solar panel....some of the rigid ones are over 10% but I don't think the experimental flex ones are near that yet. But I'm sure developments in this area won't be too far away.
Presuming no process cost difference to use magnesium chloride instead of cadmium chloride the question remains, just what percentage of total manufacturing cost is the cadmium chloride material cost? If it's 20% then cost savings is close to 20% but if the cadmium chloride is only 1%...
The problem is that cadmium chloride is toxic, so working with it is risky and requires special equipment. Here's another article on the magnesium chloride breaktrough: IEEE Spectrum.
Cadmium chloride is filthy stuff. Its cadmium ions are extremely toxic, causing heart disease, kidney disorders, and a host of other health problems. One accidental spill of the water-soluble compound can wipe out fish from a river.
And rather than needing to use fume hoods and gas masks, as is required during the cadmium chloride process, "We can deposit magnesium chloride using an airbrush, spraying it on the back of the solar cell," says Major.
Toally agree, even if costs were the same, or savings minimal, then going the non toxic route should be done. But the title of the article is "Bean Curd Component Could Slash Solor Panel Costs". Note the key operative here is "Slash", which implies a qualitative difference. Interested in whether that's true, and if so, by how much.
This is a wonderful development (and we don't even have to eat tofu). The burning question in my mind is how QUICKLY can this new approach be deployed and consumers start seeing the safety and cost savings? So often breakthrough developments in solar energy sound exciting ... but are a long way from deployment. This sounds like something that can be implemented very soon.
The burning question in my mind is how QUICKLY can this new approach be deployed and consumers start seeing the safety and cost savings?
@DrQuine, that is a very good point. Energy prices are going up and consumers need cost effective way of generating power. If Solar panels cost reduces then it will encourage many consumers to install solar panels,
It seems to me that every week there is another "breakthrough" that will lower the costs of solar panels. Most really require a few miracles on the way to commercialization and will take a long time (if they ever see the light of day).
This new chemical mixture approach sounds like it works and doesn't require a lot of research and development. What are we waiting for? Why hasn't it been implemented?
common chemical used to make the bean curd -- which some say tastes like wet paper -- could dramatically reduce the cost of solar panels.
@Karen, thanks for the post. This is really great news indeed. High cost of the solar panels was one of the reasons why people didnt install solar panels, now with this new technology solar panels will become more affordable and dependency on other power sources will reduce.
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