5 Videos on the Future of Thin film Solar

October 06 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2014   Rating: 8 Hot

What if we could print low cost solar panels on pieces of plastic and integrate this energy collecting material into buildings, infrastructure and product casings?

This is the future of thin film solar.

While traditional (rigid silicon substrate) solar panels are a relatively mature platform, we have not yet hit our stride in advancing the efficiencies of thin film solar.

Thin-film, or organic solar is attractive because it is low cost, flexible and can be integrated into existing materials and products. These systems can also be designed to tap broader sections of the light spectrum. Relatively low efficiencies mean that thin film solar will never be capable of providing a majority of our energy needs, but it is certainly part of a broader strategy of new distributed power generation.

Before we start asking when we might see thin film on the shelves at Home Depot or integrated into familiar product designs, the first step is to understand why thin film is different from traditional solar.

The following five video clips help to describe the future potential of thin film solar.

Nanosolar (Palo Alto-San Jose, CA) has long been considered a leading innovator in the field of organic photovoltaics or thin film solar.

Continue with next four videos…

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Another US startup producing thin film solar panels used for rooftops

December 01 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2011   Rating: 8 Hot

Leslie Science CenterThe US manufacturing base appears to be more than capable of expanding production of a very promising form of solar technology that can be integrated into building materials like rooftops.

Thin film solar (right side of roof image) based on plastic material foundations are less efficient than traditional glass-based photovoltaic panels (leftside of image), but they are much cheaper and more durable. By layering, or ‘printing’, thin film solar modules into common building and rooftop materials we can generate solar power onsite even on cloudy days. 

While large utilities look to solar thermal and traditional glass based solar panels to produce large amounts of electricity, building designers and consumers are waiting for plastic based thin film solar that can be integrated into rooftops without the risk (and design issues) associated with fragile and bulky glass units.

We have covered a number of stories (below) on thin film solar startups in the US who are building megawatt scale thin film production plants in the next 18 months.

Now EPV SOLAR has announced that its new 30,000 square foot, 20 MW production facility in Robbinsville, NJ, is producing and shipping production quantities of its thin-film amorphous silicon solar modules. EPV already operates a 30 MW plant in Senftenberg, Germany. 

The next step for thin film producers will be to expand partnerships with building materials and construction firms able to get products to market.  Last month Michigan-based ECD Ovonic solar subsidiary Uni-Solar has signed a multi-year agreement with an Italian steel and metal materials company to build solar rooftop materials used in onsite power generation. Marcegaglia expects to introduce the low cost, durable thin film.  

While it is too early to expect thin film solar panels on the shelves of Home Depot and Lowes, that day might be much closer than you think!

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Here comes the solar rooftop! ECD Ovonics expanding partnerships for thin film solar

November 10 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2010   Rating: 7 Hot

What happened?
Michigan-based ECD Ovonic solar subsidiary Uni-Solar has signed a multi-year agreement with an Italian steel and metal materials company to build solar rooftop materials used in onsite power generation. Marcegaglia expects to introduce the low cost, durable thin film solar metal roofing products to the market in 2010. [Image shown from Spain factory installation]

Why is this important to the future of energy?
Energy entrepreneurs are thinking beyond power generation via large, expensive centralized power plants. The alternative is expanding the world’s capacity for ‘distributed power generation’ based on low cost solar, micro-wind, fuel cells, and micro turbines. These systems could soon provide a small percentage of power generation, but enough to reduce demand on power plants during ‘peak power demand’ periods, and lower our threat of grid failure by storing and producing energy at the local level. Why not tap square footage of rooftops?

Thin film solar based on plastic substrates are less efficient than traditional glass-based photovoltaic panels, but they are much cheaper and more durable. By layering, or ‘printing’, thin film solar modules onto rooftop materials we can bring solar power to buildings around the world at a low cost.

What to watch

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Researchers design nano-crystals for high efficiency 'multiple carrier' solar cells

February 17 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 6 Hot

ccphotographie

Researchers at US Los Alamos National Laboratory (LLNL) have confirmed a unique energy phenomena known as 'carrier multiplication' via nanoscale sized semiconductor crystals that could improve the efficiency of solar cells by squeezing more energy out of inbound photons.

Traditional solar cells absorb a photon of light that releases an electron to generate an electrical current. Any excess energy from the photon reaction is wasted as heat or vibration.  The notion of 'carrier multiplciation' rests on the idea that we can get multiple electrons released from a single photon by forcing electrons into a more confined space.

This idea was observed several years ago, but has been criticized as a phantom phenomena via a process known as 'photoionization.  Now a research team led by Victor Klimov has confirmed that semiconductor crystals designed at the nanoscale (billionth of a meter) can channel this excess photon energy into a group of tightly packed electrons, leading to a more efficient solar cell.

The team did not release statements about commercialization or scalable efficiencies.  “Researchers still have a lot of work to do,” Klimov cautioned. “One important challenge is to figure out how to design a material in which the energetic cost to create an extra electron can approach the limit defined by a semiconductor band gap. Such a material could raise the fundamental power conversion limit of a solar cell from 31 percent to above 40 percent.”

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Dow & Global Solar Continue Push For Distributed Power Generation Around Roof Shingle Solar Cells

February 23 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2011   Rating: 6 Hot

Global SolarThe future where buildings integrate energy generation systems like 'thin film' solar rooftops might be closer than you think.   

Instead of designing expensive, bulky and ugly glass based solar panels, solar start ups are pushing down costs of plastic-substrate based 'thin film' solar cells that resemble today's roof shingles.  The field also includes 'Big Chemistry' players like Dow and DuPont who hope to drop the costs of advanced solar materials.

PV Tech is reporting on the continued push by Dow Chemical to expand mainstream construction use power-generating roof shingles by 2011.  Dow has already committed more than $3 billion towards polysilicon production that will help lower the global costs of solar cells.

One of Dow's key partnerships is with CIGS solar producer Global Solar (Image).  The two companies agreed in 2008 to join the US Department of Energy Solar America Initiative (SAI) project to develop building-integrated photovoltaic (BIPV) that makes solar energy cost competitive with 'grid' electricity by 2015.

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XsunX thin film solar plant closer to commercial production

October 13 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Environment   Year: 2009   Rating: 5 Hot

Thin-film- solar startup XsunX, Inc. is moving forward on building out its 25 megawatt thin film photovoltaic (TFPV) solar module manufacturing plant in Oregon. A recent company press release describes the companies efforts to align material resources with low cost manufacturing process for its 90,000 square foot facility. The company expects to begin commercial production in early 2009.

Last week we reported on the opening of the first 1 Gigawatt capacity thin film solar plant operated by Konarka. (Konarka image shown) XsunX now appears to be on track to add to real production capacity for the thin film solar market.

Energy forecasters believe that growth of thin film solar could soon surge around its advantages over traditional glass-based solar panels.

While thin film’s performance (by energy conversion efficiency) is lower than traditional solar panels, it has a cost advantages per-watt because of its lower materials and manufacturing ‘roll to roll’ costs. Thin film can also be integrated into more products and building materials, and sold over retail shelves at Home Depot, Walmart and Tesco.

If XsunX and Konarka (Image) stay on course, soon solar panels will be produced on the same types of ‘reels’ that spit out newspapers using inkjet printing processes.

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Oregon Researchers Use Nano-shells of Algae to Trap Photons and Improve Solar Cell Efficiency

April 19 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Oregon Diatom SolarThe Future of Energy will be based on our ability to elegantly control the interactions of light, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and metals.  And for all our engineering prowress of extracting and blowing up ancient bio-energy reserves (coal/oil), there is still so much to learn about basic energy systems from Mother Nature.

Laying Down Algae Shells for Solar Panels
Researchers from Oregon State University and Portland State University have developed a new way to make “dye-sensitized” solar cells using a 'bottom up' biological assembly processes over traditional silicon chemical engineering.

The teams are working with a type of solar cell that generates energy when 'photons bounce around like they were in a pinball machine, striking these dyes and producing electricity.'

Rather than build the solar cells using traditional technqiues, the team is tapping the outer shells of single-celled algae, known as diatoms, to improve the electrical output. (Diatoms are believed to be the ancient bio-source of petroleum.)

The team placed the algae on a transparent conductive glass surface, and then (removed) the living organic material, leaving behind the tiny skeletons of the diatoms to form a template that is integrated with nanoparticles of titanium dioxide to complete the solar cell design.

Biology's Nanostructured Shells & Bouncing Photons?
“Conventional thin-film, photo-synthesizing dyes also take photons from sunlight and transfer it to titanium dioxide, creating electricity,” said Greg Rorrer, an OSU professor of chemical engineering “But in this system the photons bounce around more inside the pores of the diatom shell, making it more efficient.”

The research team is still not clear how the process works, but 'the tiny holes in diatom shells appear to increase the interaction between photons and the dye to promote the conversion of light to electricity... potentially with a triple output of electricity.' 

According to the team, this is the 'first reported study of using a living organism to controllably fabricate semiconductor TiO2 nanostructures by a bottom-up self-assembly process.'  So, chalk up another early win for advanced bio-energy manufacturing strategies!

 

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Northeastern Researchers Use Coated Nanotubes to Improve Splitting of Water Into Hydrogen and Oxygen

April 25 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: General   Rating: 5 Hot

Northeastern splitting hydrogen from waterResearchers from Northeastern University and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have improved the efficiency of clustered nanotubes used in solar cells to produce hydrogen by splitting water molecules.

By layering potassium on the surface of the nanotubes made of titanium dioxide and carbon, the photocatalyst can split hydrogen gas from water using ‘about one-third the electrical energy to produce the same amount of hydrogen as an equivalent array of potassium-free nanotubes.’

Rethinking the Possibilities at the Nanoscale
Energy is about manipulating the interactions of carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, metals, biological enzymes and sunlight.

When we design core enabling energy systems (e.g. catalysts, membranes, cathodes/anodes, et al) at the nanoscale (billionth of a meter) we find performance that is fundamentally different from the same systems designed at the 'microscale' (millionth of a meter). 

Because smaller is better when it comes to manipulating molecules and light, the research teams used ‘tightly packed arrays of titania nanotubes’ with carbon that ‘helps titania absorb light in the visible spectrum.’ Arranging catalysts in the form of nanoscale-sized tubes increases the surface area of the catalyst which in turn increases the reactive area for splitting oxygen and hydrogen.

Hydrogen - Moving Beyond Hype and Skepticism

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12 novel solar energy projects funded by US Dept of Energy

November 03 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2020   Rating: 4 Hot


Most energy analysts see solar energy (via thermal, traditional photovoltaics and thin film) at the beginning of its commercial growth curve. Yet there is still much that we do not know about the fundamentals of solar energy conversions that can produce electricity, heat, hydrogen and synthetic fuels. Developing a 21st century roadmap for the future of solar energy requires us to first recognize the need for funding basic research in science and then explore the disruptive potential of breakthroughs in applied engineering.

Funding basic and applied research in Solar Photoconversion
The US Department of Energy’s Center for Revolutionary Solar Photoconversion is launching 12 novel solar research projects totaling more than $1.1 million in its inaugural round of research and development funding.

CRSP, the newest research center of the Colorado Renewable Energy Collaboratory, is dedicated to the basic and applied research necessary to create revolutionary new solar energy technologies as well as education and training opportunities.

According to NREL Senior Research Fellow and CRSP Scientific Director Arthur Nozik, the 12 CRSP projects “represent the leading edge of research into both new ways to generate electricity and liquid and gaseous fuels directly from the sun and improving our approaches toward these goals.”

The 12 selected solar projects are:

- Integrated Electrical and Optical Characterization of Silicon Thin Films – NREL and CSM, $99,818

- Redox-Tunable Polymers for OPV active layers – NREL and CSU, $100,000

- Group IV Nanowire Photovoltaics – Colorado School of Mines, $100,000

- InVitro Evolution of RNA-Inorganic Catalysts for the Conversion of CO2 to Alcohols – CU, $100,000

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Dow Corning adds fuel to growing solar industry, invests $3 billion in polysilicon materials

December 17 2008 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2012   Rating: 4

Polysilicon from Dow

The Solar industry is growing up and going global.  Now materials giant Dow Corning is investing $3 billion into basic materials for traditional photovoltaics and thin film solar.

The Chemistry side of Solar
The full potential of solar energy depends on our ability to make big advances in materials science. 

How quickly solar can grow depends on our ability to design nanoscale structures that maximize the conversion of photons into electricity, photons into heat, or photons into hydrogen.  And how many utilities and consumers take the leap!

So when we see 'Big Chemistry' companies get involved in the solar industry materials market, that should be a signal of growth (and growth pains) ahead!

Dow goes Green by Being Black
Dow Corning Corporation has announced several billion dollars of investment to provide critical materials to the fast-growing solar technology industry for both glass based solar and carbon based thin film.

Dow Corning and its Hemlock Semiconductor joint venture will begin manufacturing high purity monosilane, a key specialty gas used to manufacture thin-film solar cells and liquid crystal displays (LCDs).  Combined with the new $1.2 billion build up at a Clarksville, Tennesee facility and the $1 billion expanded monosilane plant in Hemlock, Michigan operations may add up to 34,000 metric tons of polysilicon capacity for the fast-growing solar industry. Construction of both the Michigan expansion and the new Tennessee site will begin immediately.

What to watch: Oversupply of Polysilicon

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Michigan based ECD Ovonics signs another partnership for rooftop thin film solar

February 02 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: 2018   Rating: 4 Hot

Ovonics

Thin film solar is a low cost alternative to traditional glass based solar panels.  'Thin film' photovoltaic cells can be inkjet printed onto plastic sheets via a 'roll to roll' machine.  These long plastic sheets can then be integrated into building materials like commercial and residential rooftops.

Startups are now scaling up production volumes, but the first phase of commercial growth for thin film depends on strategic partnerships with rooftop materials and construction companies.

ECD Ovonics transforming 'Rust Belt' to a 'Green Belt'
Thin-film solar is a new energy technology platform that can be produced at low cost in many regions around the world.   American energy visionaries imagine transforming the industrial Midwest 'Rust Belt' into a manufacturing hub for new cleantech materials.

Now Michigan-based ECD Ovonics has signed a contract with Carlisle Construction Materials to provide its Uni-Solar thin film for use in commercial roofing systems.  The agreement is good news for Michigan economic developers.  ECD is the world's leading producer of thin film solar, and has had previous partnerships with Italian steel and metal materials company Marcegaglia which expects to introduce the low cost, durable thin film solar metal roofing products to the market in 2010.

Related posts on The Energy Roadmap.com

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Researchers design nano-crystals for high efficiency solar cells

February 17 2009 / by Garry Golden / In association with Future Blogger.net
Category: Energy   Year: Beyond   Rating: 4 Hot

ccphotographie

Researchers at US Los Alamos National Laboratory (LLNL) have confirmed a unique energy phenomena known as 'carrier multiplication' via nanoscale sized semiconductor crystals that could improve the efficiency of solar cells by squeezing more energy out of inbound photons.

Traditional solar cells absorb a photon of light that releases an electron to generate an electrical current. Any excess energy from the photon reaction is wasted as heat or vibration.  The notion of 'carrier multiplciation' rests on the idea that we can get multiple electrons released from a single photon by forcing electrons into a more confined space.

Carrier multiplication was observed several years ago, but has been criticized as a phantom phenomena via a process known as 'photoionization'.  But now a research team led by Victor Klimov has confirmed that semiconductor crystals designed at the nanoscale (billionth of a meter) can channel this excess photon energy into a group of tightly packed electrons, leading to a more efficient solar cell.

The team did not release statements about commercialization or scalable efficiencies.  “Researchers still have a lot of work to do,” Klimov cautioned. “One important challenge is to figure out how to design a material in which the energetic cost to create an extra electron can approach the limit defined by a semiconductor band gap. Such a material could raise the fundamental power conversion limit of a solar cell from 31 percent to above 40 percent.”

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