To say that the outlook for government R&D laboratory executives is brighter for 2010 than 2009 would be a great understatement. At this time last year most laboratories were scrambling to adjust to a short-term financial upheaval brought about by an across-the-board freeze on budgets until March 2009.
Conversion efficiency will always be intrinsic to the success of solar cells, but as one startup is showing us, low cost has its merits, too.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.) and SkyFuel Inc.'s (Arvada, Calif.) SkyTrough Parabolic Trough Solar Concentrating Collector was designed to overcome cost barriers of traditional solar cells by using a new reflector material: a weather-proof, low-cost, high-reflectance polymeric film instead of the traditional heavy, glass-based mirror.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.) and Planar Energy Devices’ (Orlando, Fla.) PowerPlane UX combines a solid-state lithium battery with a buried-anode architecture—invented at the NREL—to form an intrinsically safe, rechargeable microbattery with an extremely long lifetime.
The unique optical system design and innovative optical components of the UAWS deliver highly concentrated sunlight in the UV spectrum—the wavelength region that does by far the most damage to materials deployed outdoors.
The upcoming changes in government leadership will create temporary issues in the government’s network of research labs until new strategies are defined and funded.
The IMM solar cell is a new class of multijunction solar cells that is the world-record holder for one-sun efficiency (40.8%). Two major innovations make this possible. The first is growing or depositing cell layers in an inverted sequence—from top to bottom—the reverse of the normal order. The second is using a transparent, compositionally graded transition layer to allow the growth of one subcell layer on another.
Over the last three decades, researchers and others have envisioned a time when we might be able to do something as simple, fast, and inexpensive as constructing our houses and buildings with PV(photovoltaic)-coated materials to provide the electricity the buildings would need. That vision will soon be a reality with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's (Golden, Colo.) and HelioVolt Corporation's (Austin, Texas) Hybrid CIGS (copper indium gallium deselenide), an innovative technology for the rapid production of high-quality, low-cost, thin-film CIGS solar cells using the inkjet printing or spraying of liquid precursor inks on substrates in air followed by a fast, energy-efficient printing process.
Researchers from Spectrolab, Inc. (Sylmar, Calif.) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (Golden, Colo.) have collaborated to develop a High-Efficiency Metamorphic Multijunction Concentrator Solar Cell (HEMM) that is the first solar cell to surpass the 40% efficiency barrier. This new technology is a lattice-mismatched triple-junction device that can generate utility-scale electricity with ultra-high performance under high solar concentrations.
Researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., in a joint effort with Sinton Consulting, Inc., Boulder, Colo., have developed the Sinton QSSPC Silicon Evaluation System, a system that quickly and accurately determines the quality of silicon starter material by measuring minority-carrier lifetimes, impurities, resistivity, and trapping.
Campers, soldiers, and homeowners are the benefactors of the lightweight, flexible, thin-film Copper Indium Gallium diSelenide (CIGS) photovoltaic (PV) modules, developed by researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., and Global Solar Energy, Tucson, Ariz. The modules’ flexible stainless steel backing and CIGS formulation supports a 40% gain in conversion efficiency, nearly twice the power-to-weight ratio, and three times the power-to-volume ratio found in amorphous silicon-based cells.
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., with First Solar, LLC, Perrysburg, Ohio, have created a high rate vapor transport deposition (HRVTD) technology for CdTe PV modules. This system enables in-line, continuous manufacture of thin-film photovoltaic (PV) modules and allows PV to broaden its reach into the commercial market by generating 50 W at $2.50/W, a 30% cost reduction.
Manufacturers of heat-exchanger tubes no longer have to turn to expensive titanium alloys and stainless steel to deal with corrosion problems. With the help of the Smart, High-Performance Polyphenylenesulfide (PPS) Coating System, they can go back to using carbon-steel tubes. By lining internal and external tube walls with PPS coating, makers can transform the tubes highly susceptible to corrosion into well-protected ones.
More than 150 gas stations incorporate the Power-View Photovoltaic Module, structural material/solar panels that provide 17% of a station’s electricity supply. The research team led by Robert Oswald and Frank Liu from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo., and BP Solar, Toano, Va., designed a Power-View module as two pieces of heat-strengthened glass with thin film deposited on the front piece and then laminated to a second piece.
A new material, developed by a research team at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Golden, Colo.; Argonide Corp., Sanford, Fla.; and the Design Technology Center, Russian Academy of Sciences, Tomsk, is the first fiber to perform bioactive filtration. NanoCeram Nanoalumina Fiber eliminates pathogens from water or other fluids, and has applications in chemisorption of heavy metals and bone tissue engineering.
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