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Boosting Solar Efficiency

The idea of generating electricity via the sun's power is wonderfully seductive, and we've discussed various efforts to mainstream solar technology. The problem is, traditional solar technology isn't terribly efficient, for reasons of material physics; silicon solar cells capture about 25 percent of the energy hitting them, and more advanced -- and more expensive -- combination cells (mixing germanium, gallium arsenide and gallium indium phosphide) still only hit 36 percent efficiency.

A new discovery by researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, the University of California, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology may be the critical breakthrough for making solar both more efficient and less expensive. According to Technology Research News, the scientists figured out (by accident!) how to engineer a single material able to respond to three different "bandgaps" of photon energy, giving solar cells using the material an efficiency of more than 50 percent. And because the process for making the material is less complex -- and the base materials more commonplace -- than previous multijunction cells, solar cells made using this new process should be significantly less expensive.

The usual caveats -- it's still early research, it will take a few years to work out the details, etc. -- apply. But doubled solar efficiency at reasonable costs would go a long way to making more widespread use of solar a reality.

Comments (3)


These are the kinds of innovations we need, and, to some extent, that I expect. We are very inventive, and even though this was by accident, plenty of discoveries have happened by accident, and then were developed into roaring successes and adaptive inventions.

We should be investing way more in this. If we succeed in making the hydrogen/solar economy work, including wind turbine and engineering innovation, then we will have set forth a brand new renaissance in human history, and the beginning of the thankful end of the petroleum and war era.

Wind and solar energy would likely be structured the opposite of the oil industry and its barons.

Wind and solar energy will be available everywhere on earth, and encourage distributed and networked business models and organization, and also be more labor intensive, not to mention giving added entrepreneurial effects for those who can conserve and then resell their energy to their neighbors, or pool it with other like-minded conservators into a collective.

We need this to happen sooner rather than later, as the more war and conflict we engender by occupying and bullying the Middle East, the more threats we will face before we can move away from this abhorrent behavior. With the rise of suicidal terrorism, and the ever-shrinking and more-powerful weaponry, we have a ticking time bomb on our hands.

For peace, we need to distribute and let people live as they wish without interference (not without contact and transparency however, but that's another vision).


Love this blog. Linked you in from mine and gave you a spotlight.


The information on construction of a huge solar tower of 1000 m in Australia under use of the project of company SBP already for a long time passes in a network, however probably concrete ways of construction is not yet planned. I want to take your attention to that fact, that creation is artificial rotating air weight in a tower will allow to reduce twice almost its height and five times diameter of a solar collector that is to finish a solar factory till the sizes accepted today in construction. My calculations which in due time 1994-1996 were submitted both in SBP, and in IMechE, BMFT and NASA, was give the physical parities determined between difference of temperatures on an input and an output of a tower and a ratio of tower's diameter and a solar collector at which rising inside a tower on hyperbolic spiral fluids warm air weights create a steady whirlwind such as a tornado. For example it is possible with sufficient confidence to tell the following, that at difference of temperatures of 20 degrees C and a global sunlight 220 W/sqm, taking into account the relation of tower's diameter in an average part to diameter of a collector 0,05, it is possible to receive capacity roughly in 100 MW power at height of a tower of 580 meters. Therefore for the decision of a question on construction next Solar Chimney, in my opinion, at first it is necessary to finish researches of a vortical energy source and new physical processes arising in it at scale rotation of air weights and then to start final designing and construction of one of the most powerful known sources on the ground of non-polluting energy. With pleasure I'm ready to take part in development of the international project. My site www.ergo.boom.ru and the address of e-mail G_Mamulashvili@mail.ru "


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