Solar3D, which we’ve covered several times (click that link), has completed the first working prototype of its “breakthrough 3-dimensional solar cell technology.” The 3D solar cell it has created “produces at least 250% of the power of a basic silicon solar cell,” according to the company.
3D Solar Cell Transcending Expectations
Apparently, the team is even surprised at how well its solar cell is performing at this stage. (Of course, it seems that’s always the way scientists express themselves in news releases).
“When measured relative to a conventional solar cell design, our working prototype produces electricity beyond our previous expectations,” Dr. Changwan Son, Solar3D’s Director of Technology, commented.
“First, we fabricated our working prototype. Then we created a simple cell based on the conventional design, using the same fabrication environment, to serve as a control sample. By measuring the side-by-side power output of both cells, we were able to determine the relative performance under a number of conditions, ranging from bright sunlight to lower, diffuse light. In each test, our 3D Solar Cell consistently outperformed the control cell and produced at least 2½ times the amount of electricity under the same conditions.”
“This is a game-changing result,” said Jim Nelson, CEO of Solar3D. “Two powerful characteristics of our 3D Solar Cell make it superior to current technology. First, it is substantially more efficient in producing power. Second, is our wide-angle light collection feature, which allows our 3D Solar Cell to collect light at all times of the day, month and year, an attribute unique in the solar world. Our computer simulation analysis indicated that the combination of these two features would produce double the power of a conventional solar cell. Based on the performance of our first working prototype, it appears that our 3D Solar Cell will exceed even that ambitious expectation.”
Next Step: Bring Down Costs, & Manufacture the Thing!
The company is right in line with its game plan (i.e. technology development and commercialization strategy). The next big step is to continue improving the technology in order to bring costs down and get ready for some serious manufacturing.
Dr. Son (with emphasis added): “Our mandate was to create a solar cell that would produce substantially more power than the current technology at a low enough cost of production to deliver a considerably lower cost per watt of solar electricity. We spent the first half of the year completing our fabrication process methodology. In July, we announced the fabrication and showed pictures of the first cell. Now, we have an actual working cell that produces substantially more power than the control samples, which fulfills part one of our two-part goal. Now, our near term objective is to continue to improve the fabrication process and the power output, as we optimize the cost of manufacturing. We believe that the result will be a 50% reduction in the cost of solar electricity. Perhaps the installed system cost savings will be even greater.”
I can’t say I’d mind. Though, that might throw the rest of the solar cell manufacturing industry for another loop.
What’s the timeline to commercialization, you ask? I think CEO Nelson is happy to answer that question:
“We are focused on bringing this breakthrough technology to market. Our next major step will be to produce a manufacturing prototype, which is required to undertake a pilot production run in early 2013. The pilot run will prove the 3D Cell’s performance characteristics in a production environment and lead us to a manufacturing partner and entry into the marketplace by the end of 2013.”
I’ve been watching the company for about a year. I don’t have enough technical expertise to know if this product will really transform the solar industry (and I know there are several other solar companies looking to put their own spin on the industry), but Solar3D has certainly progressed as planned, or even better (as indicated above), throughout this year. I’d keep my eyes on the company.
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