Published on November 10th, 2012 | by Nicholas Brown1
Ascent Solar Technologies Selected By U.S. Air Force For Advanced Flexible Lightweight Photovoltaics
Ascent Solar Technologies was selected for the Air Force SBIR (Small Business Innovative Research) Phase 2 award to demonstrate its next flexible lightweight photovoltaic technology built upon its existing flexible, monolithically integrated, thin-film CIGS (Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide) one.
The Air Force SBIR Phase 2 program is expected to operate for 24 months with a program value of up to $750,000.
“Solar cells perform best at lower temperatures, but they can get hot during normal operation,” stated Victor Lee, President and CEO at Ascent Solar Technologies, a developer of flexible, thin-film solar technology.
“Modifying our existing technology can improve its performance at higher temperatures. This Air Force program builds upon significant work already conducted by our team in this area. After program completion, we envision a new product that will perform over 30% better under some operating conditions that utilize process modifications that can be used in our existing manufacturing line.”
The Problem With Solar Panels
Unfortunately, solar panels need to receive as much sunlight as possible, and some sunlight turns into heat when it reaches the panel, while the rest is converted into electricity. More sunlight translates to more heat, and lower efficiency, but still a greater power output.
Fortunately, power output can be increased more by cooling the solar panels using heat sinks, or liquid cooling systems. Heat sinks can be helpful without using any electricity if they are passive, but the active type performs much better. The active type utilizes a fan to pass air through it to help dissipate the panel’s heat faster.
Another innovative idea is to get the most out of electricity-generating solar panels by utilizing the heat they absorb from the sun to heat water, increasing their overall energy yield.
Otherwise, improvements in performance like those Ascent Solar is delivering are certainly helpful.