A simple, cheaply produced thin plastic film placed on top of solar panels that could boost their power by 10% has just passed extensive testing by the NREL. The light-bending film was developed by researchers focused on innovative applied optics and light ray management at Genie Lens Technologies in Colorado, and the company would license the production of its FUSION film through a subsidiary, SolOptics.
In tests performed by NREL at its Golden, Colorado research campus, the film delivered conversion efficiency gains ranging from 10% to 12.5% depending on testing conditions, on a variety of solar panels, at a cost of under 10 cents a watt.
The gains in efficiency are amplified by its low cost, driven primarily by its integration into existing glass and plastic film manufacturing processes and its use of readily available and inexpensive materials.
The product is a first in that it could be applied to solar panels already installed, as well as during production, and the installation does not require expensive specialized equipment or labor.
It is also unusual in that this technology could be customized for differing insolation conditions, for either higher or lower diffuse light, for specific panel manufacturers, or to filter out certain wavelengths of light.
The way it works is threefold. It prevents light from reflecting off the surface of solar panels. It traps light inside the semiconductor materials that absorb light and convert it to electricity. And it redirects incoming light so that rather than passing through the thin semiconductor material, it travels along its surface, increasing the chances it will be absorbed.
The result: the active materials in the panels absorb more light, and convert more of it into electricity.
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