The Fields of Science that Hold Promise for the Solar Cells of the Future
Here are some of the fields of science that might be the major contributors in producing the next generation of solar cells.
Nanotechnology: Nanotechnology is the technology of 21st century. This field of science shows a lot of promise in producing the solar cells of the future. There are many approaches and techniques being produced using nanotechnology. Listed below are a couple of recent ones.
- Scientists have come up with materials in which the solar cells are transparent and lightweight. If this is commercially viable, then the day won't be far away when you will be looking out of closed windows with glass panes and know that electricity is being generated as you admire the skyline.
- In China, scientists have come up with coral-shaped nanomaterials that are seen to give very good results. They have more surface area, so the region exposed to sunlight is more, resulting in more electricity. Additionally they are very stable (in terms of performance and quality of material) over a long period of time. This material is made using tin oxide and can be enhanced to give better results, but with the current preparation methods, it is not commercially viable.
Similarly many scientists all around the world are developing the solar cells of the future using nanotechnology in various approaches.
Biology: Biology is yet another field of science that is expected to contribute to the solar cell of the future. Experiments using various types of algae have shown that they can trap solar energy that can be used later. But the same species of algae that scientists use aren't available in other parts of the world, so this poses a problem. More approaches in the field of biology are very close to producing better solar cells, but it is a matter of time before they made commercially viable and are available for consumers.
Materials Science: Organic Photovoltaic cells (OPV) that are made of graphene/polymer sheets are light weight, easy to manufacture, and are economical. They are being researched in a university in southern California. These cells produce only 1.3W of power from 1000W of sunlight, which is very low when compared against the presently available solar cells that produce 14W of power from 1000W of sunlight. However, this drawback is compensated by OPVs being physically flexible. Future applications might include making power-generating clothing and using OPVs in drapes, blinds, and various other sunlight-facing household furnishings to generate power.
In another approach it has been found that using 9% selenium with zinc oxide to create solar cells radically improves the efficiency of the sunlight that is being absorbed. Thereby more energy will be produced. Thus experiments keep taking place, and when a commercially viable solution is found, it will be a boon to everyone.
Image Credit: Flickr - Dominic Alves