A new type of furnace that was recently tested by the United States Department of Energy is expected to slash the cost of solar power, due to the fact that it enables manufacturers to more precisely and uniformly focus both infrared rays (heat) and visible light onto the silicon wafers that are used to manufacture solar cells, and this is expected to improve reliability and reduce the cost of the manufacturing process of solar cells.
This invention is called an Optical Cavity Furnace. The technology is taking advantage of the fact that light can be concentrated onto small areas far more precisely than anything else.
The U.S DOE is responsible for this new technology and is working with the NREL to prepare it for commercialization. They plan to build an industrial scale version of this invention that produces 1,200 solar cells per hour.
This is important to increasing the adoption of solar panels as a power source, as the up-front cost of solar panels turns most people off (even though they’d probably save thousands of dollars in the long term).
Some people believe that advancing electricity generation technology (of whatever kind) is the only solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Others believe that what solar requires is better government policies and alternate deployment methods. Both are important, but it’s clear that technological advancements such as these do play a significant role.
Technological breakthroughs such as the one mentioned at the top help to solidify the argument that solar panels deserve research and development more than any electricity generation technology, because no other power generators have shown as much promise nor progressed as much for many years as solar. I will certainly keep my eye on this and try to update you on what comes of it.
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I have a keen interest in physics-intensive topics such as electricity generation, refrigeration and air conditioning technology, energy storage, geography, and much more. My website is: Kompulsa.