Friday, July 6, 2007

Bright outlook for solar cells

A very solid article your financial adviser didn't read.

Nanotechnology could transform solar cells from niche products to devices that provide a significant fraction of the world's energy, as Edwin Cartlidge discusses energy is essentially inexhaustible, available to everyone the world over and generates no greenhouse gases or other harmful pollutants, it seems hard to imagine why we do not make greater use of it.

The main reason is cost. Electricity produced by solar (or photovoltaic) cells costs about $0.30 per kilowatt hour (kWh), whereas that derived from wind costs in the region of $0.05 per kWh and from natural gas about $0.03 per kWh.

But some believe that the rise of solar energy could be far more dramatic. Crabtree and Lewis themselves estimate that the widespread use of photovoltaic cells could happen as soon as 2015 if physicists can perfect a new generation of more advanced devices built using nanotechnology. These include cells based on quantum dots or nanocrystals devices, which are potentially both cheaper and more efficient than existing cells. Indeed, such is the promise of these technologies that a report produced for the German government in 2003 predicted that by 2050 photovoltaics could be meeting a quarter of the world's energy needs.

From PhysicsWeb