In the November 20th blog titled Engineering Solar: Photovoltaic Cells we looked at the current state of solar cells and the advances in the solar energy field. At the time silicone was one of the most abundant semiconductor materials available and was used in the majority of solar cells. Thin wafers of silicone were given a treatment that created a positive electric field on one side and a negative field on the other. As the sun makes contact with the silicone’s surface the electrons within it separate from the atoms and begin to travel through the cell. By placing conductive leads on either side of the solar cells the electricity that is generated can then be collected and reused. A solar panel is created by combining a large amount of these cells into what are called solar modules and then combining modules into a panel. When placed together in great numbers these cells have the ability to generate a large amount of usable energy.
New Material Approach
In a recent publication by Lane Martin, a professor of materials science and engineering at Illinois, he claimed that his research created “a fundamentally new way of approaching and
Future of Solar Panel Technology
The long term application for all solar panels, especially these new high efficiency versions, is to help ruduce our dependency on fossil fuels and move toward a more self sustainable and environmental society. With previous solar panels reaching a maximum efficiency of about 20%, it was not feasible to use them to fuel everyday needs that require large amounts of energy to operate such as vehicles and buildings. While these new solar panels may not be ready for that challenge, they can reach a much higher level of efficiency by producing nearly 100mW/cm2 of energy.iv These new advances in renewable energy technology is paving the way for solar panels to be a primary source for energy on day. As we have discussed in previous blogs, clean renewable enegy comes in many different forms such as hydro and wind as well as solar and look forward to blogging about the tenological and engineering advances as they present themselves.