Why are solar panels receiving so much attention as time goes by? Well, fossil fuels were the spark of light that led to the giant industrial revolution lead we made in the last few centuries. They enabled us to power ships and trains, which drove the national and world trade in leaps and bounds. Then electric generators came into the scene, and new technological grounds that helped us to refine the manufacturing industry were broken, thanks to the use of electricity. Without it, we would be having computers around, which no one can deny are the heart of modern day commerce, and manufacturing industry. It’s with that in mind that we are going to look at The Evolution of Solar Panels has been Nothing Short of Extraordinary.
One of the reasons solar panels are likely to take over as the ultimate source of power is because they are not just portable, but they are the most scalable source of power. With panels, you can create a mega-power plant giving out hundreds of megawatts, or you can create a panel that gives so little power, that it can literally power an object at the scale of half the width of a human hair.
Moreover, South Korean scientists have gone a step farther down and created PV cells that are just 1 micrometer thick. To put that to scale, you would need to divide a centimeter into 10,000 portions, each being equal to the new PV cell. They published the research involved in creating the PV cell in the Applied Physics Letters, in June 2017. According to their publication, they made the cells from gallium arsenide semiconductor, which they “cold welded” directly on a metal substrate, whereby no adhesive was used to thicken them. They were able to give as much power as regular PV cells, but with the added advantage that they could be wrapped around a radius that was as small as 1.4 millimeters.
That meant that these cells could be exploited easily as wearable power sources. In future, manufacturers may integrate them into items such as glasses, clothes, hats, and backpacks. That would allow them to power numerous applications, irrespective of their size and shape.
Miniature Size and Increased Efficiency
However, those aren’t the thinnest PV cells that have been created by scientists. On February, 2016, researcher from MIT announced in a press release that they had created PV cells so thin and light that they could placed on a soap bubble without popping it. The key to designing the cell, according to MIT’s Bulović, an MIT associate dean, and Maseeh, an MIT professor, is to fabricate the PV cell, its supporting substrate, and protective coating in a single process.
During the process, the substrate, which is created first, is never moved. That prevents it from being exposed to contamination that makes the final cell less efficient. Furthermore, the process takes place in a vacuum, that eliminates the need for high temperatures, and solvents that are needed to fabricate PV cells conventionally. According to the researchers, the process allows the use materials such as quantum dots, or perovskites. That allows the cells to be small and transparent, a quality that’s important if they are to be embedded on glass windows.
While these advancements are truly exciting, we are still a long way from commercializing them. There are still chances that something could go wrong and the process super expensive. However, knowing that’s it’s possible, means that we could get there as soon as a decade or two. That will mean being able to produce the same power, at a much lower cost, and fewer resources than current solar panel manufacturing takes.
The Future of PV Cells
PV Cells have proved that they will allow humans to exploit the free energy from the sun without any limitations. They allow us to generate energy and harvest energy from a specific location to harvesting it from anywhere, and close to where it’s needed if necessary. Furthermore, they allow us to make use of dry deserts, which have been areas of limited resource for a long time. Overall, solar panels are us will allow us to make every inch of the planet a potential energy source. The tiny cells won’t be producing lots of energy individually, but when combines, they will offer limitless power source capabilities.