Friday, January 15, 2010

Deep Solar Science at Stanford

Besides the dependence on subsidies the scariest thing about investing in solar is the possibility that some lab in Shenzen or Cambridge (both of 'em) or Cali will come up with something that makes current technology obsolete overnight.
From Greentech:
Nanostructures, stretchable silicon, plasmonics and photonic crystals are just some of the solar topics explored in Peter Peumans lab.

Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University spoke on Wednesday evening at the SVPVS (Silicon Valley Photovoltaic Society) on approaches to lowering the cost of solar energy conversion.

Peumans is an Assistant Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford and Deputy Director of the Center for Advanced Molecular Photovoltaics (CAMP). He is an expert in solar cell modeling and characterization and has developed several organic solar cell device architectures.

The professor has great intentions and is motivated by what he sees as clear evidence of anthropogenic global warming. He cited the beautiful statistical graphics of Hans Rosling and the direct relations of energy usage and quality of life, the evidence of global warming in E.J. Brook's "Tiny Bubbles Tell All", and the book Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air.

Peumans concluded, "We have the moral imperative to come up with a fuel source that is clean and low cost," and that is why he and his students, "look at crazy ideas," in order to substantially lower the cost of solar energy.

Some of his solar research projects explore:

  • Molecular photovoltaics
  • Nanostructured materials
  • Stretchable silicon -- silicon plus MEMS
  • Organic materials -- cheaply synthesized molecules
  • Plasmonics
  • Optical coatings for solar thermal applications
  • Managing light in thin absorbers
  • Photonic crystals
  • Optical antennas -- metal nanostructures as optical antennas
  • Low cost thin film transparent conductors
  • Solar cells where every layer is solution processed
One of his research areas has drawn funding from venture investors. Peumans is the co-founder and Chief Scientific Advisor of NetCrystal, a startup using the stretchable silicon developed by Peumans’ group at Stanford. Bala Padmakumar is the CEO of NetCrystal, which is funded by Wellington Partners, Siemens, and X-Seed....MORE