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Industry Discussions / Renewable Energy
|Subject: Solar Breakthrough?||Date: 2/14/2012 12:43 AM|
|Author: DCWD40||Number: 18016 of 18513|
I have been following the solar industry since 1967. The only big, big thing over the years has been First Solar's ability to get more and more out of its CdTe technology. Others have had CdTe as their focus (like Shell) but all the oil money in the world has not been able to match First Solar growth and profitability.
Tonight I see that one of the solar companies I have followed for the last 20 years has made a breakthrough. Sumitomo Chemical, a Japanese company, has a new infrared-absorbing polymer material that has been rumored to greatly increase the efficiency of multi-layer solar cells. The Sumitomo Chemical product has finally worked its magic:
In the effort to convert sunlight into electricity, photovoltaic solar cells that use conductive organic polymers for light absorption and conversion have shown great potential. Organic polymers can be produced in high volumes at low cost, resulting in photovoltaic devices that are cheap, lightweight and flexible.
In a new study, available online this week in the journal Nature Photonics, researchers at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science and UCLA's California Nanosystems Institute (CNSI) report that they have significantly enhanced polymer solar cells' performance by building a device with a new "tandem" structure that combines multiple cells with different absorption bands. The device had a certified power-conversion efficiency of 8.62 percent and set a world record in July 2011.
Further, after the researchers incorporated a new infrared-absorbing polymer material provided by Sumitomo Chemical of Japan into the device, the device's architecture proved to be widely applicable and the power-conversion efficiency jumped to 10.6 percent — a new record — as certified by the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
Organic polymers have been thought to be one of the next big challenges to First Solar's technology (although CIGS and CIS-alloys are being produced today with big-money backing). But, cheap manufacturing and 8.6% solar efficiency isn't going to cut it for organic polymers. At 10.6%, though, there is now light at the end of the organic tunnel.
First Solar is headed for 20% efficiency with its current technology. Does the