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Tedronai May 15 '12 1:27am

Solar Power Developments
 
So, I picked up a crappy little local free daily newspaper while I was out and about, today, and found an article that actually sparked my interest enough for me to do a bit more research myself.

Natcore Technologies is claiming to have developed processes that produce solar cells of up to double the industry standard efficiency, at substantially reduced cost (the article I read claimed as little as half the normal cost) with significantly reduced or outright eliminated need for (at least some of the) problematic toxic chemicals normally involved in solar cell production.

Their claimed developments are primarily two-fold:

A) a reduction in reflectance to as little as 0.3% (improving on another organization's work that brought it down to 2% from an industry norm of 4%), with the difference most notable in expanding the productive duration of any given day further to morning and evening as well as to cloudy days

B) a process that would allow the mass-manufacturing of 'tandem cells' that stack multiple layers of solar cells that each absorb part of a light spectrum, while letting other frequencies pass through to be absorbed by further layers
this development is claimed to approach doubling the industry norm for solar cell efficiency


This all sounds pretty awesome to a relative illiterate on the subject, so I thought I'd bring it up, here, and see if others are aware of these developments, and potentially able to offer insight into their meaning (or even validity) without the corporate spin in most of the material I found on the subjects. (the links above were just the ones provided by Natcore's website itself - none of the other articles I found seemed to contain anything notably divergent)

silveroak May 15 '12 2:16am

Mass produced Tandem cells are nothing new, but effeciency has always been a problem if photovoltaics for anything with a broad spectrum- the record set in 2011 was 8.62% effeciency, and "i have known people to be buying and using them for over a decade now. What Natcore is talking about is super-effecient tandem cells: 30% effeciency.
Of course the real record to beat is the one found in nature: blue Green Algae absorb and utelize sunlight with 60% effeciency.

Onigato May 15 '12 2:23am

This isn't anything new, unfortunately.

"Stacking" cells can be used, but only if the first layer is completely transparent to specific light frequencies, and so on down to the last layer. There IS material that can do this, but only in the radar and microwave bands thus far, not really that useful in solar cell technology. A single broad-spectrum absorbing material, like the black or near black effect that comes from treating the silicon in solar cells is actually more efficent right now. And their site is giving a bit of mis-information. About the only companys that have a primary product line in the sub-20% efficiency range do so specifically for amaturs, mostly in the form of "battery toppers," devices that keep RV or boat batteries topped off while they sit between uses. If you are looking at main-line panels, most are already in the 25-30% range anyways.


Reducing the albeido or reflectivity could have an effect, but not much of one. As you reduce the albeido of the cells, you increase the amount of light absorbed, true enough, but you also increase the one thing that kills solar panel efficiency, heat. As a cell get warmer, it actually has a lower percentage of energy conversion. This basically means that while the raw wattage of your solar input may increase dramatically up towards noon (the sun is at a better angle for your panels), the actual output of your cells increases at a slower rate, and then once the sun comes off noon, your input drops slowly, but the output drops much faster, since the cells build up even more heat, reducing their efficiency even more.

Besides, with a proper charge controller, you get the same results without any mumbo-jumbo. Power-point Tracking controllers maximize the output of your panels, and give the best return on a system, often reducing the actual size of the system needed, and they basically work on the same idea, make it work better in lower light situations.

I don't work for the guys, but this website is probably one of the best resources a beginner could ever hope for when it comes to learning the basics, and a bit more.

One last thing about this Natcore. I'm seeing an awful lot of red flags on their site. Items that are reminders to plug in links, a few misspellings, and no actual evidence of a manufacturing process or facility, just a lot of hope, plans to, and intent. I'm smelling fish, and it seems to be coming from their site. Cool idea, probably nothing more than that.

Solar in general, a great thing. If you own your home, think about installing a system of your own. Wih all the government subsidies and incentive programs, it can be a lot cheaper than most people think. And you get to reduce your carbon footprint, if that matters to you. Just do your research first.

silveroak May 15 '12 3:23am

There is apparently a Harvard case study about the company with regards to the way they are protecting their intellectual property rights while doing manufacturing in China- that suggests to me that they are for real even if their claims are exagerated (in short long on marketing over development- it is a lot easier to sell a solar cell that everyone believes is far and away the best)

blackstarraven May 21 '12 7:49am

I think Silveroak pretty much nailed it, most likely correct, but most likely exaggerating.

Azar May 22 '12 8:31am

After reading up on Nikola Tesla, it wouldn't surprise me if very advanced means of power generation are being kept secret.

silveroak May 22 '12 1:05pm

Define very advanced. There are numerous forms of energy production that have been known about in principle for some time that are just now entering actual development because some aspect of them has been elusive- coal based fuel cells, triple point CO2 geothermal, but in terms of Tesla his most ambitious form of power generation was 3 phase power which is widely used today. His dreams of wireless power transmission have some very real economic and technical barriers, and his expression of the idea of tuning into a fundamental cosmic frequency to recieve energy from the cosmos itself was more an expression of a dream for future generations than anything he himself had in the works.

Naleh May 25 '12 3:04am

It'd be a bit silly to keep power sources secret anyway, when you could instead be making use of them to make your nation energy-independent.

Savayan May 25 '12 3:16am

Quote:

Originally Posted by Azar (Post 5651804)
After reading up on Nikola Tesla, it wouldn't surprise me if very advanced means of power generation are being kept secret.

Everyone thinks this about Tesla. Bless him, the man was a genius, but he went off the deep end towards the end of his life. The fact of the matter is no humans, especially humans in a government, are competent enough to keep that sort of conspiracy going this long.

silveroak May 25 '12 3:27am

It wouldn't really require a conspiricy. Just put it under presidential seal or bury it somewhere and let everyone who knew about it forget or die off.


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