Breakthrough in New Material to Harness Solar Power
Solar energy is quickly becoming one of the most popular forms of clean energy. With new technologies being discovered, solar power is one step closer to becoming the most affordable and efficient way to harness the cleanest, most abundant renewable energy source in the world.
A physicist at the University of Toledo, Dr. Yanfa Yan, has been pushing solar cells to new levels and recently made a significant breakthrough in the chemical formula and process to make the new material to harness solar power.
Yan, who has been working with the U.S. Department of Energy, envisions that the ultra-high efficiency material, a tandem perovskite solar cell, will be ready to debut in full-size solar panels on the consumer market soon.
Perovskites, compound materials with a special crystal structure formed through chemistry, would replace silicon which as of now remains the solar-cell material of choice for converting the suns light into electrical energy.
“We are producing higher-efficiency, lower-cost solar cells that show great promise to help solve the world energy crisis,” Yan said. “The meaningful work will help protect our planet for our children and future generations. We have a problem consuming most of the fossil energies right now, and our collaborative team is focused on refining our innovative way to clean up the mess.”
The research paper published in the journal Science discusses how the photovoltaics team is fine-tuning a mix of lead and tin to advance technology closer to its maximum efficiency. These efforts have recently brought the efficiency of the new solar cells up to about 23 percent, while silicon solar panels on the market today have about an 18 percent efficiency rating.
About five years ago Yan’s team at the University of Toledo identified the ideal properties of perovskites and he has since focused on producing an all-perovskite tandem solar cell that brings together two different solar cells to increase the total electrical power generated by using two different parts of the sun’s spectrum.
While Yan’s team has improved the quality of the materials and the process to manufacture them at a low cost, more progress needs to be made. “The material cost is low and the fabrication cost is low, but the lifetime of the material is still an unknown,” Song said. “We need to continue to increase efficiency and stability.”
“Also, lead is considered a toxic substance,” Yan said. “I am determined to work with the solar industry to ensure solar panels made of this material can be recycled so they don’t cause harm to the environment.”
China is planning to build the world’s first solar-powered space station. They hope to reach a source of “inexhaustible clean energy” for their space station. China claims to have tested the technology and expect to build the space station by 2050.
“We plan to launch four to six tethered balloons from the testing base and connect them with each other to set up a network at an altitude of around 1,000 meters. These balloons will collect sunlight and convert solar energy to microwave before beaming it back to Earth. Receiving stations on the ground will convert such microwaves to electricity and distribute it to a grid.”
In 1968, aerospace engineer Peter Glaser proposed the concept of a power-generating platform in geostationary orbit, but in terms of development there were to many technological and financial hurdles.
Disney added a 50-megawatt solar system in Florida. This solar farm includes more than a half million panels that cover 270 acres. This will considerably reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by more than 57,000 tons per year. As reported by the New York Times, Disney estimates the amount of energy the facility can produce would be enough to power 10,000 homes annually. That’s also as much as getting 9,300 cars off the road.
The new solar farm joins other Disney efforts towards its green goal. In 2016, the company opened a 22-acre, 5-megawatt solar facility that’s shaped like Mickey Mouse. Its Tokyo Disneyland also uses solar power from rooftops to generate more than 600 kilowatts for its electrical parade light. Disneyland Paris is also in on the green game, utilizing geothermal energy for the power needed in two of its theme parks as well as a hotel. Disney’s Shanghai Resort makes use of a cooling and heating plant that cuts emissions by 60 percent.
Source: Disney, The New York Times