Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Feb 12

Spray-on Solar Panels

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Spray-on Solar Panels Solar cells are usually made of silicon coated with a thin layer of silicon nitrate. This silicon nitrate works as an anti-reflective agent to boost cell efficiency. But the catch is these types of cells are costly to produce. This anti-reflective layer deposition happens in vacuum and creating vacuum like situation doesn’t come cheap!

Efforts are on to reduce the cost of solar cells. Australia too is abundant in natural resources and wants to trap these for clean and green energy. Researchers in Australia are handling a three year project which will develop a spray-on coating for solar panels. They will concentrate on cost reduction and efficiency of solar panels too. A new Australian solar company Spark Solar and Finnish materials company

Braggone Oy

are working with Australian National University (ANU) on the spray-on method. This new technique can be commercially available by 2011. Dr Keith McIntosh from ANU, the chief investigator in the first project, stated, “It will provide an opportunity for significant manufacturing cost reductions by replacing the conventional, expensive manufacturing techniques that are currently employed industry-wide with the spray-on films.”

Creating vacuums for coating of solar cells are costly. If this step can be skipped from the solar cell production, price tags can be brought down considerably. The new method uses a spray-on hydrogen film and spray-on anti-reflective film. In this spray-on method vacuums are not needed. The cells travel along a conveyor belt where the films are sprayed on. The simplified process could trim down about $5 million in capital equipment costs per medium-sized factory. The manufacturer can save and produce solar cells at a much cheaper rate. Testing of the process is now taking place at the ANU, and the technology should be available toward the end of 2011.

Improved efficiency

The second aspect of the project is efficiency of the solar cells. This project will be undertaken in collaboration with the German solar company GP Solar and led by chief investigator Dr Klaus Weber from ANU.

“We aim to develop a range of industry-ready cell fabrication sequences that will offer significantly improved conversion efficiencies” Dr Weber said. Currently solar cells are operating at the range of 5% to 24% efficiency. Solar surface of a cell has been roughened to increase the surface area. More surface area means more absorption of solar light. But a rough surface also disrupts the cell’s crystalline structure in the process. So the second project is concentrating on improving the efficiency of solar cells. They will try to change the surface of the solar cells to improve its efficiency. Once a most advantageous surface is created, the effectiveness and power of solar cells would be superior.

19 Million Cells a year

A new Australian company Spark Solar will establish a $70 million high-tech solar cell factory in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Their main objective will be to initiate solar cell production in 2010. The factory will take a daunting task of producing 19 million solar cells a year. That volume of production will be enough to power 20,000 homes, along with exports worth more than $400 million to Europe’s booming solar markets.

The astonishing fact is that presently the global market for solar cells is growing at a faster rate than markets for mobile phones, digital cameras and laptops!

  • Naeem

    Nice and informative.. looks like a research going on in right direction… a technology both viable and beneficial!!!

    But The astonishing fact, given at the end: “presently the global market for solar cells is growing at a faster rate than markets for mobile phones, digital cameras and laptops.”

    Is it really so? seems quite unbelievable; as Solar technology, in spite of its undeniable potential, is yet to come of age. Cost efficiency is still a BIG Question mark, in Solar Cell Technology.

  • Nancy Rae

    Naeem, Solar Power works & is in use much more than you must realize. Here in VT, it is growing by leaps & bounds, not just be residents, such as myself being 100% solar powered, but also by big companies such as NRG Systems – just look at their website. Green mountain Power has a huge solar system & Green Mountain Coffee Roasters is about to install the biggest system in the state, Farmway,in Bradford is now 40% solar powered…. An area the size of the Nevada test site & Nellis AFB could deliver twice the needed energy to meet the entire U.S. needs, using today’s existing photovoltaic technology!

    The current tax incentives, federal & local combined, make it affordable for so many!

  • Stefan Hartmann

    Well, we need a real cheap “solar-paint”, that everybody can paint onto alufoil or graphite paper electrodes. This way the revolution will come from homemade VERY CHEAP solar cells. How long should we still wait, until the companies will ship their still too expensive solarcells ?

    Please checkout:
    for an easy homemade and powerful Greatzel solarcell.

    Regards, Stefan.

  • Lynn

    Changes in the economy is making solar more affordable. Pricing has dropped a good bit on solar modules. Combine that with your tax credits, solar is finally more affordable for your average household.

  • hsassoc

    There is a similar project being conducted at Swansea University here in the UK.

  • Mike Maybury

    Solar is only of use in daylight, and even more restricted by time of year, location etc. We need to work on wind energy in a similar way. Holes through buildings, particularly tall ones, can power fans. Small wind generators on sides and edges of tall buildings. In towns, huge propellers are too risky and noisy. Ventilated air and waste water needs to have heat extracted and recycled. Better wall and window insulation will reduce need for heating and cooling. Heat pumps extracting heat from air, water or soil can increase efficiency of heating and cooling. Efficient storage of heat (water or salt) can be used by individual buildings or neighbourhoods, to spread warmth to colder parts of the day/night cycle.

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