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Researchers Improve Solar Cell Performance

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the it's-the-mirrors dept.

Power 292

Vegematic writes "Researchers at MIT have improved solar collectors using dyes. They just increased their performance results by a factor of 4. These paint-on materials can increase the power obtained from existing solar cells by a factor of over 40 without needing to track the sun. 'By collecting light over their full surface and concentrating it at their edges, these devices reduce the required area of solar cells and consequently, the cost of solar power. Stacking multiple concentrators allows the optimization of solar cells at each wavelength, increasing the overall power output.' There is also a shorter FAQ available."

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292 comments

Oh, Is It That Time Again? (5, Insightful)

Atomm (945911) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158267)

You know, when they post another story about the incredible discoveries in solar power that seem to never actually make it to those of us who would be interested if it was cheaper and more efficient..... Show me a company that is already selling this stuff and then I'll be interested.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (5, Funny)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158393)

The headlines should read

Energy Crisis Solved Third Time This Week!

right above

Cancer Cured Seventh Time This Year!

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (5, Insightful)

Unending (1164935) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158563)

the truth is the energy crisis *is* solvable, but the bureaucracy responsible doesn't have any incentive to implement the solutions.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (4, Interesting)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159187)

Okay, just being contrarian, but in a free-market society, what bureaucracy is responsible for implementing solutions? I thought the market would demand, and businesses would respond?

Granted, government can do a lot to encourage the growth of a new industry, but is it really government's job to produce industries?

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (4, Insightful)

BoberFett (127537) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159325)

Government solutions give us things like minimum requirements of corn-based ethanol in your gasoline because: Nothing is quite as intelligent as using your food supply to haul Chinese made goods around the country.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (4, Interesting)

Original Replica (908688) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159415)

but in a free-market society, what bureaucracy is responsible for implementing solutions?

That bureaucracy would be the government. Not because they want stop solar, but because they feel the need to intervene where certain crucial resources are concerned because you can't have retired Floridians that live on fixed incomes dying because they can't pay the electric bill and keep the AC running. I'm not saying that my example is a likely outcome of an unregulated power market, but it is most certainly an example that is used in making sure that the power market stays regulated. California has struggled with an unregulated power supply industry. [spur.org] All argument about the pluses and minuses of government regulation aside, the fact is that in most places electricity is a regulated utility and that serves to help contain fluctuating costs and ensure a steady supply. That government assurance lessens the attraction of being energy self sufficient, and that lessened desirability fails to counterbalance the added costs and maintainance of home solar, for most homeowners. If electricity were seen less as a city supplied utility and more of a commodity with many consumer options (like gasoline or groceries) I think that the public interest in solar would be much higher and the available solar products would be more refined.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (2, Informative)

digitrev (989335) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158637)

Umm, if you read the FAQ, they said that they're hopeful that this improvement will be in production in three years.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158741)

Um, if you were paying attention, there's another announcement from some company about their revolutionary increases in solar efficiency every couple of months. They're always 'hopeful' it will be in production 'in a few of years'. It never quite manages to materialize. That is what GP is bitching about (quite justifiably).

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24159157)

I read the following:

They...hopeful...will be...years

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (5, Interesting)

oever (233119) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158721)

All sentences in the linked article are artfully crafted to contain snippets like 'increases power', 'decreases cost'.

However the linked movie [mit.edu] is fairly insightful.

What they're saying is: we absorb light in the coating. Most of then energy that's absorbed is transmitted through the glass to the frame, where it is converted into electrical energy. This idea is from the '70s, but advances in the materials used have improved the efficiency.

Nevertheless, no word is uttered on any practical installations, nor is there any mention of the efficiency compared to the most efficient currently available system, which is very suspicious.

If this becomes popular and oil prices go up, you better get used to living in an orange environment.
Since this coating absors mainly non-orange, it might be possible to combine this with greenhouses. The plants get the orange light and the coating takes the rest.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158827)

There are plenty of other things that can be done if oil prices go up. Besides, oil prices don't have a whole lot to do with the price of electricity.

(If things get holy shit on a brick terrible, it would not be that big a deal to simply nationalize natural gas fields and convert/build some minimum number of lng vehicles in order to actually have an economy, or start up a bunch of coal liquification systems or whatever. Those are peak oil disaster scenarios, not likely eventualities.)

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (1)

philspear (1142299) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159153)

Oil? So if I paint my solar car orange it will actually work? I'm more worried about coal prices as far as the electrical socket goes. I've never really gotten the connection between oil and electricity if someone wants to fill me in?

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (3, Insightful)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158791)

"seem to never actually make it to those of us who would be interested"

You say that as though all of the previous breakthrough announcements have turned out to be dead ends or something. Turning basic research into a product takes years, if not decades, so it shouldn't be surprising that you're having to wait a little.

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158999)

YES, YOU CAN WELL TRY with this company:
we have already ordered solar concentrators from them, and they are by far the most efficient ever...portable and compact enough and cheap too, yes:

energiapower.com

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (4, Informative)

QuantumRiff (120817) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159045)

NanoSolar was all over slashdot for quite some time... (they basically print solar panels on flexible plastic). They are much cheaper than regular solar panels (although much less effecient per sq. meter, but the cost/watt is still cheap) You can now buy them. However, their production capacity for the next few years is already purchased, so you might find them from a distributor, if you know someone who knows someone..

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24159095)

That forgot to mention 1 panel will only cost $5,000 each. Now all of us can afford one, and run our house on it, and save the environment. And gas will be $10 a gallon, isnt life great !!!!!

Re:Oh, Is It That Time Again? (2, Informative)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159285)

amen to that! This has got to be the 10th unique solar panel breakthrough article this year. They must be up to what like 110% efficiency by now? lol. But seriously, a 4x improvement?! This should be for sale to consumers and being built into power plants in about 3 months. I mean it's free, unlimited power FFS! And yet still nothing. Is it all the government's fault for slowing it all down? Is it patent squatters? Is it oil compant patent buyouts? Whatever it is, they should quit it so I can buy a decent solar panel!

so is it 4 or 40? (-1, Troll)

alta (1263) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158273)

I'm going to continue the long held tradition of not reading the article and leave that up to someone who has nothing better to do. Is it a factor of 4 or 40? Or, they are different, so it's both?

Wow! (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158275)

They should use this with the new 40% efficient solar cells. Then they'll have 160% efficiency!

from the FAQ (5, Informative)

Singularitarian2048 (1068276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158287)

Why did LSCs fail in the 1970's? Two reasons: the collected light was absorbed before it reached the edges of the glass or plastic plates, and the dyes were unstable.

What about stability? We tested one of our devices and found that it was stable (to 92 percent of initial performance) for three months. This isn't good enough yet for products but we are confident that the technology developed for organic light emitting devices (OLEDs) in televisions will be portable to this application.

...They are Available in 'shingle' form when?? (1)

Zymergy (803632) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158291)

So when and where can I get some of these cells in a user-installable 'shingle' form to re-roof my home's traditional shingle roof? (To be tied them into series/parallel grid cells with power controller and inverter, etc..)
Not needing to track the sun makes them extremely suitable for my pitched roof facets... and possibly cost-effective too!

Re:...They are Available in 'shingle' form when?? (1)

RabidMoose (746680) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158411)

From the FAQ, they expect products based on this technology to start hitting shelves within three years. It seems that at present, their new cells start to break down pretty quickly (within a matter of months), so they need to get longevity hammered out before these things become commercially viable.

Re:...They are Available in 'shingle' form when?? (2, Interesting)

KGIII (973947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159279)

I've been watching those folks over at M.I.T. for a while now, of all the projects out there this [raw-solar.com] looks to be the more promising in the near term.

MS Boston (0)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158297)

For a long time Microsoft didn't have a Boston engineering office, so many of the best and brightest from schools like BU, BC, and Harvard were passed over by MS recruiting. But now they have the chance to apply their brains to various research projects in MS. Naturally many would shy away from the company, as it is pretty much antithetical to the mindset of the typical Bostonian student.

But these kids are smart and will no doubt go to where the money is, i.e. Microsoft.

Anyway, the best first use of this new solar cell technology is in the solar racers that run every year. By using these as a proof of concept, they can then branch out into more lucrative MS Research programs. Can they create solar cars that absorb and retain more power using less surface area? Then we'll see how well these things work in real life.

Re:MS Boston (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158585)

What the heck are you talking about?

MS pay is pennies compared to what an engineer can make marketing their own product. There is no company that will pay what an engineer can really make if they are actually inventing new useful products. Even if you paid an engineer 100k/yr that's paltry. My cousin just got her degree, got engineering certified, and started at 88k/yr for example.

Re:MS Boston (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158727)

It's a risk/reward tradeoff. Plus I'll take $100k a year thank you very much. I make much less right now doing system admin, tech support, and everything else technical under the sun for this small (60 employees) company.

You need to increase them by three times that (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158299)

Before the make more energy than it takes to build them.

Re:You need to increase them by three times that (1)

Goaway (82658) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158555)

And where exactly are you getting the figures for the amount of energy needed to build them?

Re:You need to increase them by three times that (1)

Waffle Iron (339739) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158685)

Before the make more energy than it takes to build them.

No, the idea is that you have to set the panels outside in the *sunlight*. You don't set them up next to you on the couch in your mom's basement.

Re:You need to increase them by three times that (1)

element-o.p. (939033) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159239)

You mean I can't power my PC from the glow of my CRT with one of these solar panels???

Re:You need to increase them by three times that (4, Informative)

Damvan (824570) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159301)

Every time there is a discussion about solar, someone comes on and begins to spout the usual nonsense that the panels never produce as much power as they use during production, a claim that has been disproven repeatedly. Given that this time it was an AC shows that the message might be getting through. Avg payback in energy for crystalline-silicon PV systems is 1-4 years. On a product that is warrantied for 25 years and expected to last well beyond 50 years. http://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy99osti/24619.pdf [nrel.gov]

Call me when 1000 sq ft = 5kw (1, Insightful)

swb (14022) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158309)

Then I'll be real interested.

Re:Call me when 1000 sq ft = 5kw (2, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159019)

Where, and at what time of year? 50w/square meter (this is what you are quoting) is about 5% efficiency in a sunny spot during the summer, and something you could expect from current commercial cells.

Re:Call me when 1000 sq ft = 5kw (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24159119)

What's your phone number? Current panels, like the panels on my roof, generate about 200w per square meter. That's roughly 20w per square foot. So 1,000 sq ft = 20kw.

None of it will matter (5, Funny)

FlyingSquidStudios (1031284) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158319)

once we reach peak solar in 2015.

Re:None of it will matter (5, Funny)

stoolpigeon (454276) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158351)

It certainly wont matter to me - I'll be completely converted over to Vetrolium by then.

Re:None of it will matter (4, Funny)

Nick Number (447026) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158719)

That's an ambitious plan. Have you already started decaying?

Re:None of it will matter (2, Interesting)

Emperor Zombie (1082033) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159399)

It's people. Vetrolium is made out of people. They're making our fuel out of people. Next thing they'll be breeding us like cattle for fuel. You've gotta tell them. You've gotta tell them!

Re:None of it will matter (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24159235)

once we reach peak solar in 2015.

We already hit peak solar.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Global_dimming

Factor (1)

Strange Ranger (454494) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158355)

> "...increased their performance results by a factor of 4."
> "...increase the power obtained from existing solar cells by a factor of over 40"


What a dirty trick to get us to RTFA. :-b

FYI it's 40. Most impressive.

Re:Factor (4, Informative)

cartman (18204) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158487)

The quoted factor of 40 improvement is a comparison against unconcentrated solar cells, which nobody uses. At present, all the solar generating plants in the world use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on the solar cells, thereby greatly increasing performance.

The "factor of 4" improvement refers to how much they've improved over their previous results; it does not refer to an improvement over currently-deployed technology.

But the question is, how much does this technology improve performance relative to currently-deployed mirror concentration? And, what is the cost relative to currently-deployed mirror concentration?

Re:Factor (1)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158539)

I think it will probably be less efficient than mirror concentrators, but the operating/maintenance costs will be much lower since there are no moving parts (they don't track the sun).

Of course, this all depends on the magical OLED technology that will make blue OLEDs last longer! :) They seem to think that will happen in the next 3 years.

Re:Factor (2, Insightful)

amorsen (7485) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158713)

At present, all the solar generating plants in the world use mirrors to concentrate the sunlight on the solar cells, thereby greatly increasing performance.

Only the ones in areas with few clouds. Of course those places are best for solar anyway, but for the rest there's this new technology.

Re:Factor (1)

Jeremi (14640) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159375)

The quoted factor of 40 improvement is a comparison against unconcentrated solar cells, which nobody uses.

Aren't all those photovoltaic panels I see on people's rooftops unconcentrated? Or is there some non-obvious concentration method that they use, that I'm not aware of?

And When Is It Available Really? (4, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158359)

I have heard about a ton of solar technologies in the last 24 months that are supposed to revolutionize the way we get energy.

However, I don't see a product.

This is an uber product. The ability to generate electricity up to 40 times the amount of existing solar while allowing as low as 10% of the light to enter?

Commercial Buildings? This technology is off the hook. It not only generates electricity, it SAVES electricity being used to cool the building.

I am sure this would be used on new and existing residential buildings as well. The ability to create skylights while providing power?

I hope this one actually makes it to the market within 5 years.

Re:And When Is It Available Really? (1)

dpilot (134227) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158441)

Hopefully one of these many solar power improvements will make it to market some time before fusion power.

Re:And When Is It Available Really? (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158837)

I think it's fair to say that if it's coming out of a university lab, it's not a "product" (uber or otherwise) yet. It's front-line science, not the new iPod With Bacon.

Re:And When Is It Available Really? (1)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158887)

Yeah, I meant to say the potential to become an uber product. Should of previewed that a little bit more.

That's why ./ should allow edits in the future. You would be able to see what posts were edited and how of course. Otherwise I just have to keep being a moron who clicks submit too fast.

Re:And When Is It Available Really? (4, Insightful)

maxume (22995) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158873)

It is pretty likely there will be an inflection point. At the moment, my take is that the subsidized pay off period is still pushing 20 years, so solar is pretty much only any good if you are rich and don't like it when your power goes away, or if you want to live really far from the grid. When the unsubsidized payback hits 10 years, Joe-dumbass is going to be screwing up an installation on his garage, driving the payback time even lower.

Up until the inflection point, nothing will seem to make a difference. Afterwords, it will be like "what took so long and where did all those things come from".

Given all the research, there ... (1)

SubComdTaco (1199449) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159307)

is bound to be some combination that is going to go into production. People are looking at this from all angles and improving on previous research, like this dye concentrator effect from 20(+) years ago. I for one am not tried of reading about new solar innovations, we have got to free ourselves from oil.

Pure dark (5, Funny)

Dan East (318230) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158367)

If solar cell efficiency actually increased a mere 1% for each story slashdot has posted regarding solar cell improvement, then panels would be generating electricity in complete darkness by now.

"Window" is the focus, not just existing (2, Interesting)

Necreia (954727) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158405)

For those that didn't RTFA (aka, almost everyone)

The focus of the article is on how this could work in place of a regular window// not just as something to amplify solar cells. Since it can push the light to the edges, only the rim has to be fitted with collectors.

Pretty cool

Re:"Window" is the focus, not just existing (4, Interesting)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159029)

So this would imply a new way to recharge an electric car during long drives? Just install them in each window and let the car recharge on the go. The alternator of the future!

4 vs 40. (3, Informative)

BigGar' (411008) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158423)

FYi, its 40 time better than standard solar cells and 4 times better than their previous results.

The reference from the FAQ
1. Currie, M. J., Mapel, J. K., Heidel, T. D., Goffri, S. & Baldo, M. A. High-efficiency Organic Solar Concentrators for Photovoltaics. Science. In Press.

Re:4 vs 40. (1)

FrankSchwab (675585) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158515)

OK, so a standard solar cell is 15% efficient. So this one is (.15*40) = 600% efficient? And their previous results were 1/4 of that, or 150% efficient? Dayyyumm!

Re:4 vs 40. (2, Informative)

MightyYar (622222) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158763)

Actually, yes... but they are collecting more sunlight for each cell, not making the cells more efficient :)

The concept is not new, but apparently the dies are better and more stable now.

Re:4 vs 40. (1)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158849)

Maybe in terms of how many actual solar cells are used then yes. The greater then 100% efficiency comes from the use of collectors. The cells themselves are not greater then 100$ efficient. It's just that the collectors amplify the light getting to them allowing that many times greater output.

Wow... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158429)

In the 1970s, similar solar concentrators were developed by impregnating dyes in plastic.

I'd hate to meet the man who did this to Mr.Plastic's wife. What kinda sicko fscks plastic? ... oh wait ...

Solar power (1)

elemnt14 (1319289) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158455)

I am waiting for the day when the general consumer can buy a bunch these panels and use them efficiently. Also I think that when something like this picks up, it should become a standard for home builders. With the markets the way they are noways, getting a little energy bill break wouldn't be half bad...

I gotta ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158459)

Are the /. dice ads fucking up FF3 for anyone else besides me?

Re:I gotta ask. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24159023)

no dice for me.

For those too lazy to RTFA (1)

halsver (885120) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158463)

These nifty scientists have come up with a filter (which is made out of dye on glass) which concentrates and filters wavelengths of light. By concentrating the specific wavelengths they can increase efficiency two ways:
1) Concentrated light is better for solar cells (as in the mirrors solar plants use today)
2) Photovoltaic cells can apparently be tuned to work better for different wavelengths of light.

There are a lot of different numbers thrown around in the article, the simplest is that placing this filters on existing solar panels could increase their efficiency by 50%. By building specialized solar panels, using multiple filters, a much greater (4x? 40x?) efficiency gain can be achieved.

Ah... the poor monkeys (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158469)

So close to Type II, yet so far. - Kardashev

If you don't want to RTFA (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158547)

No mention of a factor of 4.

Claims that /the panel itself will generate 40X/ because the light collecting window is 40X the size of the solar panel.

Basically they have invented a window that can divert a certain section of the spectrum 90 degrees to the the edge of the glass, which is the only place they need to put solar cells.

Sounds like a great idea. Not quite what the headline claimed.

40 x 15% == 600% (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158561)

The solar cells currently on my roof have an efficiency of 15% (manufacturer claim). So if these are 40 times better, then I'll be able to get 600% efficiency. Perhaps my neighbours will complain that I'm sucking away the light that should have fallen onto their houses leaving them in darkness?

If you want a more detailed description (4, Informative)

edwebdev (1304531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158603)

Here is a link to the actual paper published by the MIT team:
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/short/321/5886/226 [sciencemag.org]

"Power conversion efficiencies as high as 6.8%" (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159209)

We report single- and tandem-waveguide organic solar concentrators with quantum efficiencies exceeding 50% and projected power conversion efficiencies as high as 6.8%.

So when photovoltaics say they're 35% efficient, does that mean power conversion efficiency? Or is it this quantum efficiency, which seems somehow less relevant than, you know, the amount of power that the cell can produce?

Bullshit numbers, no facts to be found... (0, Redundant)

evilviper (135110) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158615)

increases the electrical power obtained from each solar cell "by a factor of over 40,"

Let's see... Cheap residential roof-top PV panels are about 12% efficient. 12*40 would give us... 500% efficient solar panels!

High-end solar panels used by satellites are nearly 40% efficient. I'm sure NASA would love to get their hands on 1,600% efficient solar panels, too.

Next time, wait until there's a REAL article on the tech, not a completely information-free and bullshit press release.

Re:Bullshit numbers, no facts to be found... (1)

amorsen (7485) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158731)

Next time, wait until there's a REAL article on the tech, not a completely information-free and bullshit press release.

It isn't information-free, you just can't read.

Re:Bullshit numbers, no facts to be found... (2, Insightful)

edwebdev (1304531) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158745)

Go to science.com and read the actual research paper from the MIT team before blasting their work.

Next time read the article (3, Insightful)

JoeBuck (7947) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158861)

The method collects sunlight from a larger area and concentrates it on solar cells in a smaller area, meaning you can get more power with fewer solar cells. So the way to get "500% efficient" solar panels would be to extract, say, 20% of the sun's energy hitting an area, with only 4% of that area covered by actual solar cells, with concentrators to collect the sunlight from a larger area and directing it to the cells.

Re:Bullshit numbers, no facts to be found... (2, Informative)

Bryansix (761547) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158877)

Not quite there bud. It produces 40 times the amount of power for the amount of solar cells but the collection area is MUCH larger. The concentration of light is what makes it produce 40 times more power.

Re:Bullshit numbers, no facts to be found... (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158879)

You even quoted the statement so I'm not sure how you could have confused the term "power" with the term "efficiency", but there it is.

Are they cheap enought to wire up to my house? (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158625)

And at least hit break even in, say, 5 years (with the interest on the loan factored in)?

Expensive stuff (2, Informative)

jmichaelg (148257) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158647)

This article [venturebeat.com] says the window treatment for the dye alone would run around $300-$400 per square meter of glass. The solar cells would cost extra. The process requires vapor deposition which adds to the cost and it alters the light color passing through the window which may or may not be acceptable to the end user. And then there's this:

Oddly enough, a number of reports appearing today (for example, in the Associated Press) suggested that Covalent's concentrators would be of use in actual windows, but cofounder John Mapel made no mention of that possibility when we talked last week. That's no great surprise -- it would be difficult to get high-intensity light into vertically-positioned windows, much less windows placed on the wrong side of a building.

As a number of other posters have pointed out - wait for an actual product to see what it actually is and what it's capable of.

Hah! (0)

mrv00t (858087) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158649)

It's a well-known fact that slashdotter don't RTFA, but I made even further by not reading even summary or headline. Now what is going on here?

FRUstRAtioN... (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158671)

I love these types of breakthroughs, but when is something actually going to happen in the real world with this stuff?!

Off oil as quick as possible!

So, what, Mightyware has a big fusion breakthrough (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158677)

I mean, come, on, if some schmoo has a vapo solar panel and can get himself slashdotted, maybe I ought to start selling fusion reactors, ready for delivery, "real soon now", just to get the clicks!

Mirrors (1)

Lord Lode (1290856) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158691)

Why not use mirrors, or lenses, to focus the light? Simple, but effective.

Re:Mirrors (1)

halsver (885120) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158759)

Mirrors are used, but they come with a high upkeep cost. They need to be polished and maintained and repositioned throughout the day to maximize efficiency.

Re:Mirrors (1)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159003)

They need to be polished and maintained and repositioned throughout the day to maximize efficiency.

The kind of work Americans won't do!

Shhhh! (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158825)

Don't spread the word, or GM/Exxon/etc will buy all the patents again like how flywheel cars keep disappearing.

Re:Shhhh! (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159013)

Yes, it's the patents that keep flywheels from becoming commercially viable. Certianly not the myriad of issue that they have.
Starting with ahve a huge spinning object flying during an Auto crash.

Patents aren't magic you know. Someone else could release the plans, especially in the era if World Wide information distribution.

Nice work but does not address the key issue (3, Insightful)

anon37 (522694) | more than 5 years ago | (#24158905)

This won't work for the same reason that interior paint won't last on the outside of your house. Interior paints use organic dyes, just like this MIT concentrator. To the great frustration of the paint industry, organic dyes just do not last in sunlight: the molecules breakdown.

Similar solar concentrator concepts have been looked for three decades (look up, for example, Prof. Reisfeld's work at Hebrew University) and have not yet made it out of the lab.

Re:Nice work but does not address the key issue (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159041)

True, but there have been many improvements since then, and it's nice to ahve more people looking at the same problem, especially if it's to solve it for different reasons.

I certianly would go running out and investing my meager amount of money into it.

good point (1)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159233)

That sure would be a downer if these solar concentrators were destroyed by solar radiation. Watch out if the warranty is only 90 days!

RTFA! (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#24158945)

The researchers didn't do a thing to improve solar cells; they designed what will eventually be a better solar concentrator. The problem with concentrators is that the photovoltaics degrade faster when exposed to more intense light... this is not the "breakthrough" we've been waiting for folks.

Idea: why not just have sky based solar cells? (1)

Dex5791 (973984) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159105)

We should just have gigantic floating platforms with solar cells spread over them at sit just above clouds. They could be tethered in place by huge power cables and run by automated systems. It would block out some Sun, but wouldn't that cut down on the solar rays heating up the atmosphere?

What are we up to now? (2)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159113)

With all the solar cell breakthroughs since 2005, we should be up to 10,000% efficiency by now.

Meanwhile passive solar continues worldwide (4, Informative)

WillAffleckUW (858324) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159311)

While it's great that we have an improved solar cell film, the reality is that, for the most part, the most efficient method used on a practical worldwide scale involves passive solar heating, especially for providing heating and hot water.

Part of the problem is that the manufacturing process - such as that used by Sony in cranking out OLEDs (which they build at the same plant as their photovoltaic solar cells) - causes a fair bit of pollution, both thru film extrusion, bonding, and the doping process.

By 2020 we may see some useful scaled implementation of photovoltaics, but it's still projected that the vast and overwhelming majority of growth in solar will be it's use in passive solar heating (and cooling, using heat exchangers) and in passive solar water heaters, as both such uses have little in the way of pollution in the manufacturing process and have an easier permitting process for factories, installation, and residential and commercial use, and easier to develop tax incentives for on the local and national scales worldwide.

Like those glowing clipboards (1)

SiliconEntity (448450) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159331)

This reminds me of those plastic, colored transparent clipboards you used to see - they would trap the light internally and it looked like they were glowing around the edges. Sounds like the same technology, ramped up. So if it never pans out for solar cells, these guys could still be positioned to make a killing in the novelty clipboard market! Where do I invest?

Research Excitement != Practical Advance (2, Interesting)

cyberseptic (1315171) | more than 5 years ago | (#24159361)

Solar cells undergo degradation with light exposure. The degradation is usually proportional to the number of photons incident on the cell. Does this method *shorten* the effective lifetimes of existing solar cells by a factor of 40? Are there cells that exist that this solution is practical for? Do the gains outweigh the costs if I use this system to "upgrade" my solar cell array and end up slashing the array's lifetime by a factor of 40?
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