May, 29th 2013
A key field of renewable energy is solar power. Currently, solar panels are 20% efficient at converting energy of the suns rays and most of the energy is lost as heat. What if this is changed to 50%? Dr. Atwater, Professor of Material Science and Applied Physics at Caltech, believes his lab is on its way to designing a solar panel which can more than double the current efficiency of panels. It is believed that this kind of breakthrough will change the entire dynamics of renewable energy. It will also drastically lower the cost of solar panels, and increase the usage of solar power.
Dr. Atwater and his team developed three designs of solar panels which can make it possible. All the envisioned designs are much simpler than many electronics available in the market and hence he is confident that once the prototypes are fabricated and optimized, the commercialization would be a success.
Dr. Atwater also believes that achieving ultrahigh efficiency in solar panel designs ought to be made a priority goal in the industry in order to bring down the costs of using solar power. Solar panel prices have been decreasing over the past few years but the scope for further reduction in prices are limited because most of the costs now are associated with things like wiring, labor, land, permits etc. Thus, increased focus on new breakthroughs, which make panels more efficient, would enable fewer panels to be used and thus lower the costs such as hardware and installation involved.
So how does Dr. Atwater’s solar panel work? Here’s an illustration:
Source: MIT Technology Review
What do you think of this breakthrough? Let us know what you think!
Guest editor: Kristine Rowan