Fresh on the heels of IBM’s breakthrough in low cost solar, Magnolia Solar Corporation has announced that its low cost thin film technology maybe coming soon to a solar array near you. The company has just won a $1 million Department of Energy grant for advancing the technology in partnership with the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the University at Albany in New York.
Like IBM, Magnolia Solar is focused on delivering genuinely clean (as opposed to “clean coal” clean), high efficiency solar energy that can compete on the market with fossil fuels, while helping to shift photovoltaic technology away from a reliance on heavy metals.
Magnolia Solar, Q-Dots and Thin Film Technology
According to Magnolia, the company’s thin film technology is capable of capturing a larger span of the light spectrum while using inexpensive substrates based on non-toxic materials. The secret is in the quantum dots (qdots) and quantum wells. Qdots are nanoscale crystals that were initially developed using heavy metals such as cadmium. Next-generation qdots are being developed using nontoxic materials including nanodiamonds. Quantum wells operate sort of like flower presses. They force particles to move in a plane instead of a three-dimensional space, which results in high-density states and creates the potential for higher efficiency.
Many Roads to High-Efficiency Solar
Breakthrough photovoltaic technology such as Magnolia’s is one piece of the solar energy puzzle. There are a number of other pathways, such as new high tech coatings that boost solar efficiency by cutting down on dust and reflection, and the the use of more efficient solar tracking frames. Another model that will boost solar’s market-competitiveness is the development of solar power that is integrated into building elements including solar walls, and solar roofs that produce both electricity and hot water.
Image: Magnolia by Muffet on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.