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Breakthrough in Organic-Inorganic Solar Conversion

Discussion in 'Science & Technology' started by ckparrothead, Oct 9, 2014.

  1. ckparrothead

    ckparrothead Draft Forum Moderator Luxury Box

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    http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/hybrid-materials-could-smash-the-solar-efficiency-ceiling

    Typically solar cells work by having a photon hit the solar cell material, which could be organic (e.g. pentacene) or inorganic (e.g. silicon), producing an exciton.

    But there are two types of exciton. One, typically made by inorganic solar materials like silicon, is a spin-singlet exciton. It has one electron and is easy to harvest as electrical current.

    The other is what they call a spin-triplet exciton. This is typically produced by organic material such as pentacene. It has two electrons but spins in such a way that it's hard to make use of, and hard to transfer to inorganic materials as electrical current.

    A University of Cambridge team has been working on a way to transfer those difficult but potentially more powerful spin-triplet excitons from the organic solar material into an inorganic semiconductors. They believe they've found the answer and have published their studies in the journal, Nature Materials today.

    Supposedly they found ways to transfer the triplet excitons to a semiconductor with over 95% efficiency. Once they're transferred to the inorganic semiconductor, the electrons are easily harvested.

    Organic semiconductors are supposedly low cost and easily processable, so this could actually be a pretty impactful breakthrough. The hybrid organic-inorganic system could boost solar cell efficiency quite a bit.

    The team is working on a cheap organic coating that could be used to boost the power conversion efficiency of silicon solar cells.
     
    MikeHoncho and Fin D like this.
  2. Ohiophinphan

    Ohiophinphan Chaplain Staff Member Luxury Box

    Very exciting news. Being over near USF which historically been a major player in this kind of applied research you must find it very interesting. The whole field of artificial photosynthesis and any of the related sunlight conversions into energy is a field about to take off. Thanks for the read.
     
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  3. ckparrothead

    ckparrothead Draft Forum Moderator Luxury Box

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    No problem. The field excites me as well.

    One "breakthrough" that isn't really scientific at all is probably Elon Musk's decision to offer solar panel loans through SolarCity. This is sort of financial innovation rather than technological innovation.

    The program would have the user repay the loan simply by paying their energy bill. As opposed to a lease, it takes the risk away from the homeowner as far as taking the chance that his solar panels don't produce enough power to cover the lease, or his solar panels stop working.

    SolarCity will be responsible for the efficiency and upkeep of the panels, they will monitor their exact output, and it's my understanding that you will only pay for whatever the panels produce. If your energy demands outstrip your panel output, you will pay for whatever the panel is outputting at a certain rate, and then you'll pay a utility bill for whatever grid electricity you use to supplement.

    The rate you pay for your solar power is a bit tricky. Initially in the first year I think it works out to be 16 cents per kilowatt/hour whereas national average I think is 13 cents. But then after the first year, a tax credit kicks in which reduces you down to an effective 11-12 cents per kilowatt/hour. From there I think your rate increases at a yearly rate of something like 4% per year...which I believe is lower than the average annual increases from electric utilities.

    So essentially you get solar panels on your house for free. You're paying an electric bill just like you would without solar panels. It's not necessarily cheaper (at first) but then again it's not necessarily more expensive either. You've just taken a house off the grid which I personally believe is a public good.
     
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  4. ckparrothead

    ckparrothead Draft Forum Moderator Luxury Box

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    Here's an article about the SolarCity deal.

    http://finance.yahoo.com/news/solarcity-loan-deal-could-propel-040314760.html

    What I think is attractive about it is even if you don't plan on staying in a house for very long, when you sell it I think you're also selling the SolarCity loan. Whoever owns that house will pay SolarCity for whatever electricity the panels produce.

    I think a lot of the reluctance to adopt solar panels is people thinking well I don't plan on being in this house for 30 years. But with this you can be in a house, get this done, leave it to go to a new house and it doesn't matter. In fact I would encourage it as you're basically making the decision for the next guy that he's going to be off grid electricity.
     
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