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SCI/TECH: Solar Startups Promise Cost Breakthroughs

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posted on Jun, 11 2005 @ 07:51 PM
Two California high-tech startups have raised significant money from various venture capitalists. They plan to bring to market new photovoltaic (PV) technologies that promise competitive prices with conventional electrical power sources.
Two Silicon Valley solar cell start-ups, both at the brink of delivering more cost-effective technologies to the red-hot solar market, have raised fresh war chests of venture capital.

Nanosolar of Palo Alto has raised $20 million from a group of investors led by the Menlo Park firm Mohr, Davidow Ventures. Miasolé of San Jose has raised $16 million in a round led by Menlo Park's Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

The fundings are significant because these companies promise to bring down the cost of solar cell technology, which remains relatively expensive compared with more traditional sources of electricity.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

As a former PV systems engineer, I've been a huge fan of solar electricity; but realized that, unless the costs can be brought down to about $1 per Watt, it will continue to be a niche power source. Cutting costs significantly in photovoltaic cells has been a goal for over twenty years, and there simply haven't been any major engineering breakthroughs in that time.

Both startups say that they'll cut costs by replacing silicon, long the building blocks of PV cells, with a layer of copper-indium-gallium-diselenide which can be deposited on a variety of flexible materials. However, they're not the first company to get away from silicon; several other companies have used gallium compounds which resulted in much higher efficiencies. The downside: extremely high costs.

If either of these companies can follow through on their claims, we could finally have a cost-effective alternative energy source to supplement -- and perhaps someday replace -- our dependence on coal and oil burning power plants.

Related Discussion Threads:
Alternative Energy Research Project

[edit on 11-6-2005 by Off_The_Street]

[edit on 11-6-2005 by Off_The_Street]

posted on Jun, 13 2005 @ 03:34 PM
I'm also a fan of solar energy, especially photovoltaics, but (and I mean no disparagement here) how did this topic ever get on NEWS? This is not the type of topic that really fits in that category.

posted on Jun, 13 2005 @ 03:45 PM
By the way, have you kept up with recent research results in this field? According to "PhysOrgNews" they now have a way to more than double the efficiency of such devices.

posted on Jun, 13 2005 @ 04:04 PM
This development and other new energy developments absolutley deserve a place in ATSNN. If these technologies come to pass, then it will affect all of our lives by taking us away from the oil ball and chain that ties our country

posted on Jun, 13 2005 @ 04:11 PM
Lazarus I agree that energy developments belong in the news, but this particular post is about a startup company, not a new development.

posted on Jun, 13 2005 @ 05:50 PM
Its actually posted under the Science/Technology heading so its more than appropriate. Its news but not in a general sense.

posted on Jun, 14 2005 @ 02:01 AM
Here is one of the articles from Phys Org News concerning photovoltaics. It is from the March 23rd newsletter. There is another article which covers how quantum dots can cause photons to react in a way that gives conversion efficiencies of around 65%, or about twice as efficient as todays best solar panel efficiencies (around 32-33%)

Companies' novel polymers and quantum dots target capturing broad spectrum of both visible and invisible light

Konarka Technologies, Inc., an innovator in developing and commercializing power plastics that convert light to energy, and Evident Technologies, a leader in quantum dot development and applications, today announced the companies are collaborating on research to increase the sensitivity of plastic solar cells to a wider range of the light spectrum. Using Konarka’s proprietary polymers and Evident’s quantum dots, the team is developing novel materials that improve the overall performance of power plastic.

News archive

“As part of our continuing efforts to push photovoltaic science forward, we’ve learned how to get sensitivity outside the visible light spectrum, including the infrared, with our polymers,” said Russell Gaudiana, Ph.D., vice president of research and development, Konarka. “This collaboration is focused on determining the best materials to capture more light and how to manufacture them outside the lab environment.”

Evident’s proprietary EviDots™, which are high performance semiconductor nanocrystals active throughout the visible spectrum and into the near–infrared, are being combined with Konarka’s conductive polymers to create ultra high performance solar cells that exceed the capabilities of today’s best silicon-based technologies. The project is in keeping with both companies’ stated missions to offer high-efficiency, low-cost materials in new form factors. The quantum dot power plastic could be used for demanding energy, communications and military applications, such as battlefield or off-grid power generation.

“Through our proprietary nanotechnology, we uniquely design the optical and electronic properties of our EviDots. Our quantum dots are tuned to absorb light over the solar spectrum from the visible through the infrared. This leads to harvesting a greater portion of energy, resulting in greater efficiencies for solar cells,” commented Michael LoCascio, chief technology officer, Evident Technologies. “By combining our quantum dots with Konarka’s innovative solar cell technology, together we are going to lead the way in making ultra high performance plastic solar cells a commercial reality.”

This program with Evident complements Konarka’s ongoing efforts to develop different coat-able and printable chemistries for its light-activated power plastic. Each chemistry can be tuned to a specific purpose, enabling customers to choose the performance that best suits the power requirements of their devices, systems or structures.

As I recall, there was another article (with pictures) showing a way to vertically arrange the quantum dots so as to make them even more efficient at converting sunlight into electricity.

I would have simply given the links to these articles, but I don't know how.

[edit on 14-6-2005 by Astronomer68]

[edit on 14-6-2005 by Astronomer68]

[edit on 14-6-2005 by Astronomer68]

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