Solar technology has struggled since its inception to stay cost effective enough to make up for the large initial investment. Government subsidies have helped, but many fear that those will soon go away. Because of that, scientists are fighting to produce smaller, more powerful solar cells to bridge the gap between energy and cost savings and US Army scientists have made a new breakthrough in the technology.
Maria Antonietta Vincenti, Dr. Michael Scalora, Neset Akozbek, and Domenico de Ceglia have received a patent for their solar cell that promises to be much smaller, stronger and cheaper. The Army plans to use this technology to power soldiers’ equipment in remote and inaccessible areas, but any breakthrough, such as this, will impact the solar industry as a whole.
The thickness of the newly invented solar cell is only a few hundred nanometers thick, which is extremely impressive when you find out that a piece of paper is roughly 100,000 nanometers thick, which makes it roughly 100-300 times thinner than a piece of paper!
The scientists determined that placing ultra-thin layers of gold and silver between the semi-conductor layers would increase the cells ability to absorb energy. The cells are also designed to overcome the common problems current solar panels face, such as damage, wear out with the help of the metals’ ability to reflect harmful UV and IR radiation away from the cells.
Perhaps the most exciting part of this invention is the solar panel’s ability to absorb sunlight no matter which angle the sun is hitting it at, diminishing the need for expensive and heavy sun-tracking systems.