Photovoltaics and the Future
The science behind photovoltaics was discovered almost 200 years ago, by a (then young) French physicist named A. E. Becquerel. The little experiment Becquerel performed in his father’s laboratory served as the backbone of one of the most exciting technologies in clean and sustainable energy. Photovoltaics is a relatively simple technology—a material surface should be treated with a specific kind of chemical to allow it to absorb solar radiation and turn the radiation into electric currents and voltage.
Photovoltaic technology is a great way to power the modern world—the electricity generated from the power of the sun is clean, renewable, and reliable. The technology that we have developed to facilitate the process of electricity generation is quiet, does not require frequent or expensive maintenance, and can be easily installed in homes, businesses, or public buildings.
However, despite the relative simplicity and numerous benefits of photovoltaic systems, the funds that are being diverted into deeper and wider research is not enough to produce groundbreaking work in the last few decades. Looking at the bright side, this means that there is so much more to discover and improve about the current photovoltaic technology that we are using,
One of the most exciting innovations in the world of photovoltacis is the future generation solar cells, which are specifically developed to address the Shockley-Queisser limit, which dictates the 31 to 41 percent power efficiency for many types of solar cells. Improving solar cells—the core of the technology—will include the use of biomimetics and polymer cells, solar thermal technologies, and hot carrier cells, among others. Improving the materials of solar cells will expand the number of applications for the technology, and even integrate photovoltaic cells into clothing, which would then generate power for wireless devices.
Many industries are shifting to the use of organic materials in their products and services, and the photovoltaics field is no exception. Some energy experts believe that the next big thing in the field of photovoltaics is the use of organic materials, which will take the eco-friendly aspect of the technology to another level. Organic photovoltaics will use solar cells made of carbon-based polymers, which are less expensive and friendlier to the environment. While organic solar cells are not as efficient as those made of crystalline materials (or even gemstones), researchers believe that they will be more useful, since they are more cost-efficient to produce and install.
Research is also underway for the production of cheaper solar collectors—the company CoolEarth is studying the viability of inflatable solar collectors, which can be made of cheaper materials and can be installed on wires instead of costly frames. The maintenance of these inflatable collectors (basically, solar balloons) is even cheaper—damages can be repaired by tape, and damaged units can easily be replaced in just fifteen minutes.
As technology and the means for production advance, the cheaper photovoltaics will be. With more and more people interested and invested in the many benefits and advantages of photovoltaics, we can be certain that the future does look bright for solar power generation.