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December 23rd, 2009

Microphotovoltaics produce competitive results

Published on December 23rd, 2009 | By: pwray@ceramics.org
Representative thin crystalline-silicon photovoltaic cells – these are from 14 to 20 micrometers thick and 0.25 to 1 millimeter across. (Image by Murat Okandan)

Representative thin crystalline-silicon photovoltaic cells – these are from 14 to 20 micrometers thick and 0.25 to 1 millimeter across. (Image by Murat Okandan)

Via press release, Sandia National Lab announced that scientists have developed microphotovoltaic cells that could revolutionize the way solar energy is collected and used.

The cells are fabricated using microelectronic and microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) techniques common to today’s electronic foundries. They are expected eventually to be less expensive and have greater efficiencies than current photovoltaic collectors that are pieced together with 6-inch- square solar wafers.

Benefits for microphotovoltaic cells include new applications, improved performance, potential for reduced costs and higher efficiencies.

Eventually units could be mass-produced and wrapped around unusual shapes for building-integrated solar, tents and maybe even clothing,” said Sandia lead investigator Greg Nielson. This would make it possible for hunters, hikers or military personnel in the field to recharge batteries for phones, cameras and other electronic devices as they walk or rest.

Other possible applications for the technology include satellites and remote sensing.

From 14 to 20 micrometers thick (a human hair is approximately 70 micrometers thick), microphotovoltacis are 10 times thinner than conventional 6-inch-by-6-inch brick-sized cells, yet perform at about the same efficiency. Because flexible substrates can be easily fabricated, high-efficiency PV for ubiquitous solar power becomes more feasible.


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