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New Technology Could Lower Cost of Solar Energy By 75%

New solar technology is being developed by scientists at the Research Triangle Institute (RTI) in North Carolina that could make the production of solar energy 75% more affordable.

The high cost of photovoltaics has slowed down its widespread adoption in both the industrial and consumer markets. But the technology that RTI International is working on shows that it can be manufactured for less than 20 US dollars per square meter, 75 percent less than traditional photovoltaic cells.

The solar cells are created using low-cost materials and go through a manufacturing process that greatly reduces the cost of production, which includes capital infrastructure and energy expenditures associated with manufacturing.

The RTI solar cells are made up of inorganic semiconductor particles called colloidal quantum dots, which have a power conversion efficiency that rivals traditional solar cells at a fraction of the cost.

“Solar energy currently represents less than 1 percent of the global energy supply, and substantial reductions in material and production costs of photovoltaics are necessary to increase the use of solar power,” said Ethan Klem, research scientist and the project’s co-principal investigator, in the institute’s press release.

Photo Credit: RTI International

“This technology addresses each of the major cost drivers of photovoltaics and could go a long way in helping achieve that goal,” he added.

Results in demonstration tests show that the cells consistently provided a power conversion efficiency of more than 5 percent, which can compete with other emerging PV technologies.

Jay Lewis, senior research scientist at RTI and the other principal investigator of the project stated, “The efficiency of these devices is primarily limited by the amount of sunlight that is absorbed. There are many well-known techniques to enhance absorption, which suggests that the performance can increase substantially.”

Aside from being low-cost, the new RTI cells have a host of other key benefits that include higher infrared sensitivity, which allows a more efficient use of solar radiation for power generation.

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