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article imageThree new technologies to take solar power forwards

By Tim Sandle     Mar 1, 2020 in Environment
Solar cells are becoming thinner and the production methods are accelerating. These are two innovations designed to lower costs while meeting global demand. As solar energy use grows, we look at three new developments.
From alternative materials to silicon, which can be produced in far faster times and with efficient electrical properties, and to thinner, more energy efficient solar cells, we look at three scientific advances with solar energy.
Advancing solar cell production
Looking into a way to increase the production rate of solar cells and solar panels, researchers from Washington State University team have produced a more efficient, means to generate cadmium telluride (CdTe). This is a material used for solar cell manufacture, and it is an alternative to silicon. Here, a new family of solar cells based on perovskites -- materials with a particular crystal structure -- is now competing with conventional silicon materials.
The team has demonstrated a new process for rapidly growing high-purity CdTe material, at the unprecedented rate of over one kilogram of crystal per day. The technological basis is the use of a high-pressure furnace to create the levels of crystal feedstock material, needed.
Tess also showed that the new method for producing the crystal led to the production of crystals with improved electrical properties. The process is presented in the Journal of Crystal Growth (“CdTe synthesis and crystal growth using the high-pressure Bridgman technique”).
The thinner the better
Technologists based at MIT, together with researchers from the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory, have presented a means for solar cell costs to fall. This is based on slimming down the silicon cells.
The basis of this is with thinner silicon cells that are relatively more robust than previous attempts to reduce down the scale, overcoming the challenges of cells being too brittle or fragile. This has been achieved through new developments in solar cell architecture. This was achieved using a process called PERC (for passivated emitter and rear contact) technoeconomics.
The technology is outlined in the journal Energy & Environmental Science (“Revisiting thin silicon for photovoltaics: a technoeconomic perspective”).
Chlorophyll molecule could be key to better solar cells
In plants, a molecule called Chl f is key to photosynthesis. Researchers have recently analyzed the protein complex and the molecules role in photosynthesis. This insight could help to advance solar cell development.
This is based on creating an alternative process, modeled on photosynthesis, but applied to an artificial to enable the capturing solar energy and its conversion into electricity. This would be based on capturing light on the lower energy spectrum, in the infrared band, which has never been used before – developing a type of artificial photosynthesis.
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