Nanotechnology helps Solar Panel Efficiency

NanoflakesIt looks like nanotechnology could help double the efficiency of solar panels. Currently around 15% of the light that shines on a typical solar panel is converted to electricity. Using a new crystalline material, Dr Martin Aagesen from the Nano-Science Center at University of Copenhagen claims that 30% efficiency should be possible. As batteries are often the bulkiest part of any wearable device, any improvement in the ability to harness the sun rays as an alternative power source has got to be welcome.

Aagesen says that while working on nanotechnology, he discovered a "perfect crystalline structure" that, while unusual in itself, also had the property that it absorbed all incident light - an excellent start for a solar panel. Not only would this make a more efficient photo-voltaic cell (the essential element in a solar panel) but it should be possible to manufacture them more cheaply.

Hoping to exploit this discovery, Aagesen is the director of a company called SunFlake Inc. which is further developing the technology.

In a separate development, a Californian company - NanoGram Corp - claim that they've found a way of cheaply manufacturing 30Ám thick poly-crystalline layers that could also significantly improve the efficiency of solar panels. They claim the process should be capable of achieving a breakthrough price point of $1 per watt-hour.

Nanotechnology manufacture of thin films

Other developments, Sanyo have demonstrated practical crystalline silicon-type solra panels with an efficiency of 22%.