Wednesday, November 9, 2011

New Solar Technology


New Anti Reflective Coating Increases Solar Power

A new anti-reflective coating is being hailed as a "Game Changer" for photovoltaic energy. The nano structured coatings help panels absorb nearly all the light that falls on them, including light at angles that normally bounces off.
This technology could increase solar output by 20 - 30%.
From Rensselaer Polytechnic:
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power.
"To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun's position in the sky," said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university's Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. "Our new antireflective coating makes this possible."
Results of the year-long project are explained in the paper "Realization of a Near Perfect Antireflection Coating for Silicon Solar Energy," published this week by the journal Optics Letters.
An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it - meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power.
After a silicon surface was treated with Lin's new nanoengineered reflective coating, however, the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it - meaning that only 3.79 percent of the sunlight was reflected and unharvested. This huge gain in absorption was consistent across the entire spectrum of sunlight, from UV to visible light and infrared, and moves solar power a significant step forward toward economic viability.
Lin's new coating also successfully tackles the tricky challenge of angles.
Most surfaces and coatings are designed to absorb light - i.e., be antireflective - and transmit light - i.e., allow the light to pass through it - from a specific range of angles. Eyeglass lenses, for example, will absorb and transmit quite a bit of light from a light source directly in front of them, but those same lenses would absorb and transmit considerably less light if the light source were off to the side or on the wearer's periphery

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