Skip to comments.Micron-sized solar cells beat wafer-sized cells
Posted on 12/27/2009 5:30:07 AM PST by PeaceBeWithYou
Sandia National Labs recasts solar industry with MEMS
PORTLAND, Ore. Sandia National Labs has harnessed silicon's natural tendency to grow into islands and used micro-electro-mechanical systems techniques to free those islands into the world's smallest solar cells.
Sandia claims the micron-sized solar cells are as efficient as their wafer-sized big brothers, but consume only one hundredth the amount of semiconductor.
Rather than force solar cells to grow across an entire wafer in a perfect crystalline lattice, and throw the whole wafer away if any imperfections develop, Sandia National Labs has found that smaller is better.
Measuring just 100 microns round and just 14-to-20 microns thickincluding electrodesthe tiny solar cells resemble snowflakes, but can be ganged together in parallel to provide whatever current generation capacity required by an application.
In addition, they can also be wired in series to generate high voltages that are impossible with conventional solar cells. In the space required for 12 volts from a traditional solar cell, hundreds of volts can be generated by micron-sized solar cells wired in series.
Sandia also claims their solar cells small size would allow them to be affixed to flexible surfaces, even clothing, turning almost any surface into a solar panel.
In tests, Sandia demonstrated that a conventional pick-and-place robot can assemble about 130,000 of the tiny solar cells per hour over several square meters at a cost of approximately one-tenth of a cent per cell.
Funding was provided by the Department of Energy's Solar Energy Technology Program and Sandia National Laboratory's Directed Research & Development program.
Sandia also created the world's first LSD.
They be trippin'.
I’ve been reading about these innovations for 30 years. When does the application arrive that is cost effective without the government subsidy? I’ve two wood stoves in my home plus a small wood/coal version in the basement because they are economical given my circumstances. When do we see this technology make sense economically?
Paint, clothing, car batteries, rooftop coverings, a large list of uses if they perfect this enough to have real world application. Would this translate into computer chip tech in any way? Thanks for the thread.
> Would this translate into computer chip tech in any way?
These solar cells, typically, used to be chips. It is a recycling aspect of the semiconductor industry. Take all the transistors, diodes, op-amps, memory, and computer chips that are defective, grind them up and call the ground up dust amorphous silicon. Then, heat them to a vapor and deposit the vapor on whatever you want and it forms a silicon photocell capable of generating electricity in the presence of light. OR you can use the re-deposited vapor as a biasing layer in making LCD video displays.
They’re already doing this.
As far as alternatives are concerned, solar probably has the greatest potential. I know that solar collecting crystals have been produced in a lab that are some 80% efficient but can’t be mass produced yet. Current technology can mass produce solar collectors that are some 20 to 30% efficient.
If we can ever mate mass production with 80% collection efficiency (at a reasonable cost) we’ll see solar take off.
From what I’ve read, 80% efficient collectors could mean solar collectors for the home that are only a few square feet rather than dozens of square feet. In fact with that kind of efficiency, solar starts to become viable even in cloudier and more northerly locations.
Thanks. I’ve long thought that someday, and maybe soon, fast computers will be a glass ball filled with chips of the consistency of gas or vapor.
I’d like to know what companies are trying to commercialize this approach. They would be a far better financial bet than the ones doing windmills and (of all things) carbon sequestation.
Windmills are at their peak efficiency as far as I can tell. Not too shabby for thousand year old technology. LOL
And even the best of the best still stop when the wind does. We have come so far. /s
80% is a large number.
The present DARPA goal is 50%.
Even 50% efficiency would be a huge leap forward.
You’ve still got to get around the work function. This puts a theoretical limit on the efficiency of these devices. Now could we chemically change the work function........?????
No, Laz, its just you trippin'. Sandoz developed acid, not Sandia.
No, you’re thinking of Santa.
It depends on who the Government is rooting for and picks as a winner.
The special lab produced solar cells are strugling to get to 40% effiency.
Mass produced solar cells vary from the teens for crystaline and less than ten percent effiency for amorphous and nonsilicon cells.
I just love these kind of articles and was guilty of producing a few when I was in research. It is the classic, “At this point all the big problems are solved and it just needs to be put into production.”
They're already here, depending on the application.
Solar powered calculators have been around for decades. Solar powered emergency phones along the highways have been around for a number of years. Using solar power to charge batteries for evening lights for driveway paths have been around for a few years and they're getting better.
With each new increment in efficiency and decrement in price, solar becomes cost effective in more and more applications. Solar powered homes in the North will be the last.
It is far easier, and quicker, than you can imagine.
The first step is to regulate your use of the wood stoves, essentially making it a crime for you to heat your home with the ordinary. Then, punish coal companies and stop the construction of coal fired power plants.
There, project complete, it now makes sense to use this technology if you want to live in a warm home.
There is a degree of truth to what you say. Fortunately I have decent neighbors (as of now) who could care less that I can burn. My 10+ acres of hardwood may turn out to be an asset after all.
If the process described in this article could be applied to the InGaN full spectrum cells, cost would be small, efficiency would be high, and mass production would be a breeze.
I’d like to see that show, usual suspects (wiki etc.) are still showing the record holder in the low 40’s.