Solar energy could get a boost from new nanomaterialsNovember 2, 2012
Nanomaterials improve the performance of solar energy systems
Solar energy systems may soon become much more efficient with the help of new nanomaterials that are designed to reduce the amount of light solar cells reflect. Solar panels and cells have an iconic design and are well known for their highly reflective surfaces. Though most solar energy systems are passive in the way they collect and produce electricity, they are still victim to worrisome shortfalls in efficiency that often make them an unattractive alternative to fossil-fuels and other forms of alternative energy.
Material reduces the reflective properties of solar cells
A team of researchers from The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, led by Professor E. Fred Schubert, have developed new nanomaterials that could help boost the efficiency of solar cells significantly. This new material can make the surface of solar cells much less reflective, allowing them to collect more sunlight and produce more electricity. The material used in this research is an optical thin film comprised of magnesium fluoride, which itself has the lowest reflective properties of any other dense materials that are known to exist.
New material could be applied to any existing solar energy system
According to researchers, the thin film can be applied to nearly any type of solar cell, allowing solar energy systems to become more efficient without the need for radical changes to current technology and equipment. The material can be fashioned to suit solar energy systems of various sizes and capacities, allowing for some flexibility in application. Because of this, the film could be adopted throughout the solar energy industry in a matter of years, if the industry can be convinced that it is worthwhile.
Solar energy industry may be disinclined to take risks
The solar energy industry is on the lookout to make its various technologies more attractive to markets around the world. The introduction of new technology, even if it is something so small as an optical thin film material, can be a risky process. There is no guarantee that these materials will make solar energy systems more attractive to markets, thus exposing some energy companies to the risk of financial loss. In a time when financial loss could mean the ruination of a company in the solar energy industry, few companies are eager to take major risks.