Tuesday 2 October 2018

Switching Silicon in Solar Cells Drops Production Costs

Switching Silicon in Solar Cells

Cutting the Costs of Solar Panels through a Change of Silicon

In the summer when it gets really hot, the first thing we think of is the air cooler but after a while, after we have properly cooled down, we think of the exorbitant bill that is going to come our way on account of the A/C. In such times getting a solar panel is the best solution. Although they do cost a lot to install, the subsequent costs are brought down. But who can shell out all that cash at the beginning? Here’s where scientists plan on bringing down per unit costs by changing out the silicon used.

Scientists at Michigan University have found that by switching out the silicon in solar cells, the costs drop by about 10% per unit manufactured. Solar energy has been in use for a while, as concerns for green- house gas emissions started to increase, solar energy became the new “in thing”. In some places the costs of using a solar panel instead of conventional forms of electricity is almost the same. But this 10% drop in costs will give solar panels another boost in the industry.

The Use of Silicon in Solar Panels: 

Silicon is the norm raw material that is used in solar panels or photovoltaic cells. They come in two forms- perfect crystals that cost more but will give you more efficiency and multicrystalline silicon that costs less but gives you less efficiency.

In both cases of silicon, the cells have to be etched to reduce sunlight reflection. This reduces efficiency as some part of the sunlight is lost. This loss of light through etching on the cells, gives the cells their bluish color.

The Alternative to such Silicon Treatments: 

The alternative is to use nano- texturing silicon with a dry etching technique. This gives you a blackish silicon surface that is much more efficient at capturing sun rays than the norm blue one.

The reason this type of silicon surface is black is that the entire surface of the cell is covered in etchings which resemble a forest of tiny needles. This is done so that what sunlight falls on the surface gets captured and does not get reflected back.

Another challenge to using this form of Silicon: 

With surface defects on the surface of the cell, normally you would have problems in conducting electricity. But scientists have discovered a method known as Atomic Layer Deposition or ALD for short. This coating minimizes the surface defects problem of conducting electricity.

The dilemma in using black Silicon: 

Using black silicon instead of the bluish ones in solar panels and then its subsequent treatment of ALD all adds to the cost of the solar panels. This is at least what scientists thought. Scientists thought that by using black solar panels instead, the cost would go up by 15 to 25%.

But on further notice, scientists seen that they could, in this case, use the lesser efficient and lesser costing multi crystalline silicon and get the same efficiency or even more than the normal silicon solar panels cutting costs altogether by 10%.

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