Recent advances in solar energy will help further the public use of photovoltaic (PV) solar generation by reducing solar costs to reach parity with fossil fuels. Price reductions in the solar industry have been due, in large part, to using cheaper and readily available materials. However, researchers are developing new technologies that will turn the energy market upside down.
Nanotechnology has been an early candidate to help overcome current performance barriers and substantially improve the collection and conversion of solar energy. Nano tech researches have identified multiple benefits of nanotech solar panels including:
- Reduced manufacturing costs as a result of using a low temperature process similar to printing instead of the high temperature vacuum deposition process typically used to produce conventional cells made with crystalline semiconductor material.
- Reduced installation costs achieved by producing flexible rolls instead of rigid crystalline panels. Cells made from semiconductor thin films will also have this characteristic.
- Currently available nanotechnology solar cells are not as efficient as traditional ones, however their lower cost offsets this. In the long-term nanotechnology versions should both be lower cost and should be able to reach higher efficiency levels than conventional ones.
Currently, PV efficiency is still limited due to barriers of manufacturing nano materials. However, it is encouraging to see the wealth of research invested into this area, and companies beginning to commercialize nano-enhanced solar panels.