- Can we calculate the efficiency of a natural photosynthesis process?
- Which is more likely to happen first: solar panels on every home, or giant solar power plants?
- How many wind turbines would it take to power all of New York City?
- Can traditional gasoline-powered cars be converted to run on hydrogen fuel cells?
- What is the energy of gasoline compared to the same cost of other fuels in BTUs per dollar?
- What happens to electricity when nothing is plugged into an outlet?
- How do birds sit on high-voltage power lines without getting electrocuted?
- What is “clean” coal?
- Is there a way to harness electricity from lightning?
- Why do the products of a nuclear fission reaction in uranium have three neutrons but not three protons?
How can solar cells become cost-effective enough to be commercially viable?
In December of 2008, researchers from MIT tested a process that caused photovoltaic cells to produce as much as 50 percent more electrical output…By Deborah Halber
There are, of course, a huge range of ongoing efforts to address this problem (this is not likely to be the last time we get an engineer to answer to this question in this space). Among the most recent approaches to this problem comes from a team of physicists and engineers at MIT that is using computer modeling and advanced chip-manufacturing techniques.
In December of 2008, researchers from the Research Laboratory of Electronics, and the departments of materials science and engineering and physics applied an antireflection coating to the front of ultrathin silicon films, plus a novel combination of multi-layered reflective coatings and a tightly spaced array of lines to the backs of the films. The result is photovoltaic cells with as much as 50 percent more electrical output.
The carefully designed layers deposited on the back of the cell cause light to bounce around longer inside the silicon layer, giving it more time to deposit its energy and produce an electric current. Without these coatings, light would just be reflected back out into the surrounding air.
The work has attracted interest from industry for applications ranging from generating remote off-grid electricity to dedicated clean power.
Posted: December 18, 2008