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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Breakthrough Nano Tech Will Boost Solar Power Efficiency

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

Inexpensive Nanostructure Film Keeps Photons from Bouncing Off

That's the beauty of science. You discover something new, and then you keep finding new applications for it. Chemical engineers at Oregon State University (OSU) have invented a new way to deposit "nanostructure films" on a variety of surfaces. The obvious use is for eyeglasses; this could make them better and less expensive. But the holy grail here is making more efficient solar panels to reduce the cost of solar power. Here's how that would work...

solar panel photo

Better Eyeglasses First, More Efficient Solar Panels Second
The nanostructure film reduces the amount of light that is reflected off the glass surface. For eyeglasses (or camera lenses!), this is good because you get less glare and more light goes through, so you see better. But for solar panels, this means that more of the sun's light reaches the surface of the panels (usually either silicon or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS)) and doesn't just bounce back into space, so more photons can be captured and turned into clean electricity.

There are already other types of films that do this, but this new nano-film should be able to do it better, for less money, and in a way that is easy to apply to the surfaces (not expensive process that requires big equipment).

concentrating solar power lenses photo

Here you can see the lenses over a concentrating solar power setup.

An Add-On to Existing Solar Power Technology
And the beauty of this is that this new nanostructure-film is applied on top of whatever technology you already have, so it doesn't matter too much if your solar panel is based on monocrystalline silicon cells, or polycrystalline cells, or thin films, etc. It could also be applied to the lenses of concentrating solar power setups.

As Chih-hung Chang, an associate professor in the OSU Department of Chemical, Biological and Environmental Engineering, says: "They should be able to make almost any type of solar energy system work more efficiently."

Original here

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