Monday, November 23, 2009

An Idea: Percolating to the Surface

If one cannot see the dynamical relation toward "localization of the energy" it will never make sense how such energy can be used to advance sustainability. While they are close in the thinking, the idea, still remains apart from acknowledgement of the substance of the proposal.

Thin-Film Solar with High Efficiency

Solexant is printing inorganic solar cells with nanomaterials.

Solar cells made from cheap nanocrystal-based inks have the potential to be as efficient as the conventional inorganic cells currently used in solar panels, but can be printed less expensively. Solexant, a company in San Jose, CA, is currently manufacturing solar cells to test the technology. In order to compete with other thin-film solar companies, Solexant is banking on simpler, cheaper printing processes and materials, as well as lower initial capital costs to build its plants. The company expects to sell modules for $1 per watt, with efficiencies above 10 percent.
Nanocrystal solar: The solar cells at top were made on a roll-to-roll printer from an ink consisting of the rod-shaped inorganic semiconducting nanocrystals shown below. The cells were printed on a flexible metal foil and will be topped with a glass plate.
Credit: Solexant

The company has licensed methods for growing nanocrystals and making them into inks from Paul Alivisatos, professor of nanotechnology at the University of California, Berkeley and interim director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. (Alivisatos is on Solexant's board of directors.) Alivisatos says the advantage of these materials is their potential to combine low cost with high performance. Solar cells made from crystalline silicon are efficient at converting sunlight into electricity, but they're expensive to manufacture. To bring down the cost, companies have been developing thin-film solar cells from semiconductors that don't match crystalline silicon's performance but are much less expensive to make.

Solexant's goal is to make cheap thin-film solar cells with relatively high efficiencies. It would not disclose what the nanoparticle inks are made of, but the company says they are suspensions of rod-shaped, semiconducting nanocrystals that are four nanometers in diameter and 20 to 30 nanometers long. The Solexant cells are printed on a metal foil as the substrate. Nanocrystal films are simple to print but have poor electrical properties. Electrons tend to get trapped between the small particles. "The trick with these cells is how to deposit the materials on the fly in a way that makes a very conductive surface," which in turn ensures decent light-to-electricity conversion, says Alivisatos. Solexant begins with nanocrystals because they're easier to print, and heats them as they're printed, causing them to fuse together into larger, high-quality microcrystals that don't have as many places for electrons to lose their way.
The remaining parts of the solar cell, including the electrical contacts and a light-absorbing layer, are also printed on the flexible metal films. This process allows Solexant to print very large areas. When complete, the cells are cut and then topped with a rigid piece of glass.

I wanted to keep a record of these links for examination so besides the blog posting here, a direct link to the authors of this record keeping.

Evidence of Solar PV, Battery and Conservation Advancements

Solar PV

Batteries and Storage

Conservation and Efficiency

Electric Vehicles


  1. paul valletta12:34 PM

    There are interesting consequences when one creates say Mobius Strips made from Graphene, then linked with Tubular shaped (circular) Graphene "links". A chain of opposite adjacent linked 2-D surface's, suspended in a cylinder chamber can produce large amounts of energy? :)

  2. Hi Paul,

    It's been awhile.

    Maybe you could direct be to an example of your thinking because I do find you have an amazing ideas when one wraps one's head around it.

    A battery?:)


  3. Defining a mineral

    The word “mineral” means something very specific to earth scientists. By definition, a mineral:

    1. Is naturally formed;
    2. Is solid;
    3. Is formed by inorganic processes;
    4. Has a specific chemical composition; and
    5. Has a characteristic crystal structure.

    Though each of these aspects of a mineral may seem simple, they have important implications when considered together.

    CRYSTALS are objects of true and profound mystery. That's not because they channel occult energies, or hold misty hints of the future in their limpid depths. Their puzzle is much less esoteric: why are they as they are?

    It is an incredibly basic question, yet physicists still struggle with it. Can we say why a given group of atoms prefers one particular arrangement over another? Can we predict how a crystal will be structured, and so deduce what properties it will have?
    Solving the crystal maze: The secrets of structure

    Here is some more info in research material to follow on the topic.

    Möbius and twisted graphene nanoribbons: stability, geometry and electronic properties

    See:The Mysterious Allotropes of Carbon

  4. Wow, wow, and wow. Thanks very much Plato for this wonderful blog article. While I try to wrap my head around the cutting edge in Quantum Gravity, this entry reminds me of how important PRACTICAL physics is ... you know ... that which can actually earn a fellow a buck in the "Real World" where employers have the nasty habit of PAYING people for actually producing results instead of say, "thinking." (And what a shame that is, but that's the way the world turns and the cookie crumbles and ... more cliches available upon request ... :-).

    Yeah, Solar. For my undergraduate Senior Project in Mechanical Engineering, I did a semester-long research project into this field. Why I got away from it I'll never know, possibly because the hot jobs were in the oil industry, or microchip tech. That's where the money was. Well, my temp job ends with the Xmas rush on Dec. 24th, so I'll be pounding the pavement again. Any thoughts on where the best job opportunities are atm in Solar, Plato?

    And Batteries? Heck yeah, they're important and will get only more so in the years and decades ahead. It's one thing to make energy, quite another to hold onto it.

    So in conclusion and with much more to ponder and add in a bit, thanks again. Hey man, how long did it take you to READ all those wonderful links?! Are you a pro in the field?


    P.S. What does First Solar the company think about this? They're still tops in the field atm, yes?

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