Wednesday, May 7, 2014

A Potentially Game Changing Solar Cell

Solar Cells.jpg
 
Over the past 20 years or so, we've seen some pretty remarkable advancements in photovoltaic (solar cell) technology.  Heck, I even own a solar powered charger for my iPhone.
 
When you think about renewable resources for energy, solar has them all beat.  Of course in the strict definition, solar power isn't truly a renewable resource.  However, it's pretty abundant and no one seems too worried about the potential for the sun going away any time soon.
 
However, despite its universal abundance, solar power is not without problems & limitations.
 
The 2 biggest problems are cost and efficiency.  Let's face it, if charging your cell phone with solar power will take twice as long while the charging device costs twice as much, most consumers will opt for the "old school" way of things.
 
Advances over the years have brought costs for solar cells down… way down.  This means that most of those impulse item calculators you see as you are checking out at a store are powered by solar cells instead of batteries.  That's good for the environment and good for the consumer too as they receive a device that always works and they *never* have to buy batteries.
 
However, when you are looking at an array such as the one in the photo at the top of this post, cost definitely comes into play.  In the marketplace of large scale economies, you need efficiency *and* cost to both be on the winning side.
 
And *that* is why today's post has tremendous potential.  It seems that scientists have recently figured out how to make solar cells using tin… that's right tin.  Recent announcements from both the US and the UK have made it clear that making cells using tin is now a viable alternative to the more expensive cells currently available.  The reason that tin is such a big deal here is because it is amazingly plentiful.  That, of course, brings up the old law of supply and demand.  The greater the supply, the lower the cost.  That means that creating solar cells using tin will greatly decrease the cost per unit making solar power a much more affordable alternative.
 
Now, the new tin cells are not without their problems.  They are currently not nearly as efficient at creating electricity as state of the cells available today.  However, the cost means you can buy a lot more of these that could potentially offset the efficiency problem with shear numbers.  Also as research continues, science will continue to evolve the tin cells making them more efficient.
 
There is also the fact that current high efficiency solar cells use lead… and we all know how environmentally friendly lead is.  Add to that how dangerous it is to humans and tin looks a lot more promising.
 
So, things continue to look up for the whole concept of solar power on a wide scale distribution basis.  Abundant sunshine can mean abundant energy, and that's good for all of us.

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