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Next-Gen Glitter-Sized Photovoltaic Cells Unveiled

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the catching-the-sun dept.

Power 155

MikeChino writes "Sandia National Laboratories recently announced a new breed of glitter-sized solar cells made from crystalline silicon that use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers. Perfect for soaking up the sun’s rays on unusual shapes and surfaces, the tiny solar cells are expected to be less expensive, more efficient, and have promising new applications in textiles, clothing, and building facade installations."

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155 comments

glitter - the new nano measurement standard (4, Funny)

thomasdz (178114) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543244)

OK, we have a new standard of measurement... "glitter"
I can handle that. After all I understood volkswagon-sized meteors, a station wagon full of backup tapes, a library of congress -sized disk farm, and of course the old favorite, a football field sized nuclear storage facility.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543306)

What do you mean? American or European football?

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543334)

Wait, what do you mean? Hand-Egg or No-Hands-Ball?

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1, Flamebait)

polar red (215081) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543366)

*foot*ball can only mean soccer.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543396)

American *foot*ball is called football because it is played on foot, as opposed to horse or motorcycle.

European *foot*ball is called football because the ball is moved up and down the field with one's foot.

Scoring in either game can be done by foot.

This is why I prefer my terms:
Hand-egg: In American Hand-egg, the majority of the time one is playing, one is holding an egg shaped object.

No-Hands-Ball: In European No-Hands-Ball, for the majority of the game, you can pretty much make contact with the ball using any part of you that doesn't have fingers. I.e. hands.

It clears up the confusion quite nicely.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543564)

Hand-egg: In American Hand-egg, the majority of the time one is playing, one is holding an egg shaped object.

I still prefer Armored Wankball (and I'm a HUGE American football fan)

No-Hands-Ball: In European No-Hands-Ball, for the majority of the game, you can pretty much make contact with the ball using any part of you that doesn't have fingers. I.e. hands.

I prefer the moniker "Handless Grassdiving". Even though I'm a footie fan.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544406)

Tell that to France.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543758)

But the American Football is non-migratory. European Football (soccer) has spread to the whole world...

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543408)

*must fight urge to put a joke about Garry Glitter in this comment*

*must fight...*

GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543458)

GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*

What kind of glitter?

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543504)

GAAAAHHH *head explodes into a cloud of glitter*?

What kind of glitter

He stopped being able to type with his brain after exploding. His mental capacities have been reduced to glittering only. I'm not sure how many IQ points that requires still though, but not enough to explain and elaborate on the type of glittering his being has been reduced to...

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543418)

The problem with using "glitter" as a new standard non-standard measurement is that there is probably already a NSSU for particles of that size. Duplicate functionality. This is in addition to the fact that glitter is of an uncertan size -- I've seen glitter particles nearly a cm square, and I've seen glitter particles in the sub-mm range.

If we are measuring in only one plane (since solar cells are pretty much flat), then the correct unit would be a nanoacre (about 2 mm square).

Silly You! (4, Funny)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543462)

A "Glitter" (si Unit, "gL") is a measure of conversion from Lumens/cm^2/s to kW/Hr. Get your facts straight!

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (3, Funny)

FatdogHaiku (978357) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543638)

My favorite measure is still the "buttload" as in, "We have a buttload of these old 1.6 gig Celeron machines, should we make a beowulf cluster?" There are instances of confusion when working between Asia or Europe and America, as the American (or imperial) buttload is larger that the metric buttload, however a buttload does imply plenty so things tend to workout in the end...

I'm sorry, I'll get a cup of coffee and take my meds now....

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

Graff (532189) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544264)

I still want to know how you use 100 times less material. So you have x amount of material, you use 100 times less than that:

x - 100x = -99x

It gives back 99 times the original amount? Hmmmm...

Maybe they meant to say that it uses one hundredth the amount of material? Nah, if they meant that they'd have said it correctly, right?

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544708)

I still want to know how you use 100 times less material. So you have x amount of material, you use 100 times less than that:

x - 100x = -99x

It gives back 99 times the original amount? Hmmmm...

Maybe they meant to say that it uses one hundredth the amount of material? Nah, if they meant that they'd have said it correctly, right?

Actually, since the result is negative 99x, it returns 99 times the original amount in anti-material. You want to make sure you keep the two separate as 1x material will annihilate itself with 1x of anti-material (-1x) leaving you with just 98x anti-material and one Imperial buttload of energy.

Re:glitter - the new nano measurement standard (1)

KraftDinner (1273626) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544292)

Peter Griffin: A palette? Am-am I readin' this right? Y-You need a palette of chocolate-covered pretzels? Wh-wh-where the hell am i supposed to - a-an-an-and wh-what is this, a drum of grape jam? Is that - wh-what is that - is that like a drum like, they ship oil in? Is that - a-a-an-and wh-wh-wha - look at this one: A desk of Cheez-its. A desk - wh-where are you gettin' these units of measurements from? Jackée Harry: Mary. Peter Griffin: [laughs] That is still funny. Okay you stay right here, big funny gal, i'll be right back with... [reads from the clipboard] Peter Griffin: a hammock of cake.

Everything old is new again? (1)

crrkrieger (160555) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543254)

And I thought glitter went out most of a decade ago. Time to dig into the closent!

Re:Everything old is new again? (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543264)

And I thought glitter went out most of a decade ago. Time to dig into the closet!

While you're in there, can you say "hi" to Tom Cruise for us?

Re:Everything old is new again? (1)

ozmanjusri (601766) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543282)

And I thought glitter went out most of a decade ago.

No-ooo!

It's for solar powered ponies silly!

Muahhhh darlings...

Re:Everything old is new again? (1)

peragrin (659227) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543424)

apparently you haven't seen twilight with glitter power vampires.

Re:Everything old is new again? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543872)

apparently you haven't seen twilight with glitter power vampires.

Thats because most of us are over 14.

Does this tip the balance? (4, Funny)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543256)

Up until now we have all known that trench-coat ninjas > glitter vampires > eye-liner pirates.

Does this invention change this? Will glitter vampires now be able to overpower both eye-liner pirates and trench-coat ninjas?

Or does the "solar" aspect of these tiny solar cells make them useless, even deadly, to glitter vampires?

Also, can someone please explain where heroin-chic werewolves fit into the hierarchy? I'm having trouble placing them.

These are the questions that wake me in the middle of the night, sweating and with racing heart.

Re:Does this tip the balance? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543764)

Stop eating a large pizza and a big bottle of Coke before going to bed. All your questions will vanish. And never mind that black circle with a red dot in your ceiling, it's nothing. Certainly not a camera, anyway.

Re:Does this tip the balance? (1)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544100)

Up until now we have all known that trench-coat ninjas > glitter vampires > eye-liner pirates. Does this invention change this? Will glitter vampires now be able to overpower both eye-liner pirates and trench-coat ninjas? Or does the "solar" aspect of these tiny solar cells make them useless, even deadly, to glitter vampires?

This doesn't change anything. Vampires can wear them, but they won't get energy from the sun, only candlelight. It's just like the speaker-laden trench-coats, or pro-football grade eye-liner. Ninjas can't sneak while blaring music, and eye-liner's only half-useful when you're wearing an eye-patch.

Where the hell is my Nanosolar(tm) (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543268)

Where the hell is my Nanosolar panel? They promised they would have them for sale to residential customers way back in 2009. It's almost 2010 now, and only one panel has been sold to an individual, on eBay. It has many of the same advantages, plus it's not crystalline. But they won't sell them to the public...

and I bet (3, Insightful)

Pikoro (844299) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543276)

This technology will be mass produced in only 20 years.

Re:and I bet (2, Informative)

ZeroExistenZ (721849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543382)

This technology will be mass produced in only 20 years.

I think this could lift off pretty fast once it's incorporated in fashion, affordable goodies, want-haves, and is popularized in this way.

Say, you would design an affordable line of clothing with a nicely hidden away mini-USB-cable to power your gadgets with the glitter displayed discretely (having a certain technological cool about it but also being aesthetical and fasionable, so not the "geek gear", or the over the top 80s like neon fad, but accessable for the general public being some added "I'm environmently friendly and techno cool"-patch)

I think you can shave off on R&D time by driving up demand for this technology and investing in it with a sense of urgency.

Just think of the possibilities of being a walking powercollector?

Re:and I bet (1)

tuxgeek (872962) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543470)

Most of us are not too concerned with powering our clothes
We consumers are more interested in when we can have this technology to power our homesteads

Sure, this new tech sounds great, when can I buy one?

14.9 really any good ? (2, Informative)

yakumo.unr (833476) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543280)

As of now the solar cells are producing energy with 14.9 percent efficiency, which is pretty great compared to off-the-shelf commercial modules which range from 13 to 20 percent.

I guess that must be good for the size, but Boeing announced 41.6 percent efficient cells this year [spacefellowship.com] and I wonder how the ex NASA employee & inventor of the super soaker is getting on with his work he claims could hit up to 60% [physorg.com]

There's more than efficiency to consider. (3, Insightful)

gbutler69 (910166) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543486)

Efficiency alone is useless. You also must consider durability and cost. If something is 99.99% efficient, costs $ 1,000,000,000.00 per kW/Hr to produce and has a lifespan of 10 years, then, it's useless. If, on the other hand, it is 25% efficient, costs $ 5.00 per kW/Hr to produce, and has a life-span of 1 year, then "IT IS WICKED USEFUL!"

Re:There's more than efficiency to consider. (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543634)

Efficiency alone is useless. You also must consider durability

They are f*ing silicon based things where the oxidised surface layer is the same stuff that is f*ing quartz - you don't get much more durable than that. I really do not understand where you guys get your ideas about limited life from (it comes up a lot and I do not understand why), I wouldn't be surprised if the photovoltaic materials that Einstein was playing with are still in one piece.
The clue here people is think of whatever mode of failure is likely and THEN you can put down things like "has a life-span of 1 year" after you find out it's made of salami and likely to be eaten by rats. Multicrystalline silicon with a very high hardness? Rats can't touch it and a propane torch won't melt it, etc, etc - but maybe do something to protect against hailstorms if they are likely.
Cost is of course a different story, which is why small, multicrystalline cells sound so good. Those big single crystal wafers used to make electronics and some photovoltaics require a lot of heat and time to produce (zone refining), and if you don't have to do that step at all that's a large cost you don't have to pay.
You don't need econ101 voodoo where something of infinite value which lasts forever is discounted to nothing to show that more efficient cells that don't cost much more and have a similar long lifespan are worth it (and especially so if they cost less than some things in use).

Re:There's more than efficiency to consider. (2, Insightful)

Patch86 (1465427) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543914)

You don't need econ101 voodoo where something of infinite value which lasts forever is discounted to nothing to show that more efficient cells that don't cost much more and have a similar long lifespan are worth it (and especially so if they cost less than some things in use).

Cost is all important. 2 devices might both last 500 years, and one might be 3 times as efficient as the other. But if it costs 10 times as much, it's not going to fly with average Mr Commercial.

If I want to kit my house out with solar panels, it wouldn't make sense to buy the more expensive one. Sure it might pay off as the centuries tick by, but that just doesn't enter in to it. You want something affordable now, which will pay off over the next few years before you move house/die.

Re:There's more than efficiency to consider. (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544754)

I believe lifetime comes from the fact that the current is generated by electrons knocked free from the material in the solar cell. Over time the number electrons available to knock free and turn into current is reduced.

The lifetime doesn't refer to the material's lifetime, it is more to do with the useful producing lifetime of the solar cell.

Re:There's more than efficiency to consider. (1)

raistlinwolf (1365893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544808)

I've seen those small solar yard lights using some kind of polycarbonate like stuff 'protecting' the silicon - it becomes milky white & powdery with exposure to the sun in just a few years.. And... I picked up this 70W/20V panel on ebay once that worked for a while until the sticky plastic backing wrinkled up (which wreaked havoc on the delicate layer of silicon it was supposed to protect). So yeah, they can and will make crappy solar panels. Although that really doesn't change the fact that solar panels could potentially last for hundreds of years with a little effort, they are still very delicate.

Re:14.9 really any good ? (3, Informative)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543510)

Spectrolab's cells are nowhere close to cost-effective for consumer (or even business) use on earth. They are a niche product to be used for satellites, other spacecraft, etc. The goal of Spectrolab's cells is to maximize power as a function of mass and volume.

The goal of consumer-grade systems is to maximize power as a function of cost (including maintenance, etc).

Johnson's system (the super-soaker guy) is simply a cell that harnesses a temperature gradient to generate electricity. He claims up to 60% efficiency, but the system requires an operating temp on the high-temp electrode stack of the cell of about 600 degrees C to hit this efficiency, which would require the use of a parabolic mirror setup -- hardly fit for consumer use. In truth, his cell isn't solar at all -- it's more like a special kind of fuel cell.

Re:14.9 really any good ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544638)

Are you kidding me? Isn't solar? Is a special kind of fuel cell! Thanks for correcting us misguided folks in the Solar Energy Field! I'll make sure I mass along your correction at our next conference in June. LuLz. Slashdotters are too funny!

Re:14.9 really any good ? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544816)

Mirrors are cheap. If your solar panel is 60% efficient, you can afford the 70% reflectivity of polished aluminum. A unit that would power a NE home in the winter would be no larger than a C-band satellite dish. A NE home with electric resistance heating.

Re:14.9 really any good ? (1)

maroberts (15852) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543820)

From the article, Johnsons 60% involves some high temperature components, and probably is not suitable for miniaturisation. The conditions under which you can use your cells matters as much as the efficiency

Re:14.9 really any good ? (1)

chrysrobyn (106763) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544832)

You're mistakenly using watts per lumen, which is very similar to watts per pound (the important factor in space). For the vast majority of energy production, the important factor is watts per dollar.

Glitter sized cells scare me because they must be approaching the point where the kerf size is exceptionally relevant to the product size.

When can I buy it (2, Insightful)

Danathar (267989) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543286)

Like most sensational announcements of breakthroughs in engineering on Slashdot; If I can't buy products that use it at my local hardware store or via Amazon for my iphone/laptop/electronic device, it might as well not exist.

So what that it was invented. The REAL story would be an announcement of a product that will be SOLD. This story is just a teaser.

Re:When can I buy it (2, Insightful)

MathFox (686808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543324)

They say that some oil companies are heavy into alternative energy, buying start-ups and shelving their products. For them, "Never" is the answer to your question!

Re:When can I buy it (2, Interesting)

dlt074 (548126) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544348)

at the risk of yet another -Troll mod from the socialist whack-jobs running around here.

which ever technology makes the most profit and has the best ROI is the one any real free market company will use. it's only when you get government involved and disturbing the free market that you have issues with political moves and motivations. such as shelving something to make a point.

i'd be more concerned about the EPA coming in and saying that we can't manufacture this product on US soil because the process of making this eco friendly technology is too destructive to mother earth. again having to outsource more "green jobs" because of an unelected out of control government bureaucracy.

the environmentalists in the US are all for alternative technologies, as long as they get manufactured in someone else's back yard.

How does "its the oil company's" get mod'd up? (1)

clay_shooter (1680300) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544672)

Our current infrastructure relies on highly portable moderately concentrated energy sources. The oil and gas companies deliver that. In the end, they are probably the companies that will convert whatever the new resources are to a form that can be transferred and stored. They have the capital and infrastructure to do it. I hasn't happened yet because the technology isn't there.

Oil companies are losing access to much of the raw materials due to nationalization. They are (or will soon be) highly motivated to deliver synthetic portable power.

Full conversion to electric is never going to happen in the US. We appear to be opposed to the construction of the additional transmission capability that it would require.

Re:When can I buy it (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543568)

If you're not interested in science en technology news then /. is not the site for you.
There are plenty other sites that do only product reviews.

Re:When can I buy it (1)

WillDraven (760005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543610)

Slashdot: Product Reviews For Nerds, Stuff That You Can Buy?

Something tells me we wouldn't spend nearly as much time here if thats all Slashdot posted.

Re:When can I buy it (1)

dbIII (701233) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543736)

It has been said that in general Americans hate science intensely and distrust scientists but love technology - hence the evolution, vaccination and climate change fiascos going on in the USA when it is accepted elsewhere.
Is that the view you have or am I just looking at things far too simplisticly?
BTW, the first hybrid car I saw used commercially was in 1987 (passenger vehicle in a mine) - it usually takes a very long time before advances hit the mass market

Re:When can I buy it (1)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544442)

If I can't buy products that use it at my local hardware store or via Amazon for my iphone/laptop/electronic device, it might as well not exist. ... The REAL story would be an announcement of a product that will be SOLD.

Please turn in your nerd card on the way out the door.

Great where can I buy this (3, Informative)

ickleberry (864871) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543296)

Over the past 5-10 years so many new efficient solar panels have been designed but you can't buy any of them.

The best solar panel I can reasonably get my hands on is a a 15% efficient overpriced 100W monocrystalline panel off ebay for about $300 so it will take about 10 years even in Florida to break even.

The strange thing is I distinctly remember reading a magazine article that mentioned the breakthrough that got solar panels from 10% efficiency to 15% and that was in 1999. So that means we should have the ones mentioned in this article by about 2017 if we are lucky. By that time of course we will be reading about 125% efficient solar panels that not only convert 100% of the energy from the sun but also suck up a substantial amount of ambient heat and convert that to electricity as well

Re:Great where can I buy this (1)

kqc7011 (525426) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543570)

To me the real break through will be in the storage of the electricity/power produced. Be batteries, capacitors or whatever. And for the real hard part "at reasonable price". To me this means it has to cost less than what I pay to the electric company.

Re:Great where can I buy this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543754)

Why bother with storage if you live in a populated area? Feed the grid, spin the meter backwards. You immediately half the costs on hardware (which will still be too dear).

Only makes it worse (2, Insightful)

Errol backfiring (1280012) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544008)

Populated areas only make the problem worse. People go out to work at about the same time, go home about the same time, it gets dark at the same time. It is nice that you can power the filled offices from the empty homes, but where does your energy comes from when you switch on the light bulb when it gets dark? From storage, that's what. Only, with that many people doing about the same things, the individual problem just adds up.

Re:Great where can I buy this (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544862)

The best solar panel I can reasonably get my hands on is a a 15% efficient overpriced 100W monocrystalline panel off ebay for about $300 so it will take about 10 years even in Florida to break even.

  I would be worried by your statements except for the fact you are incorrect!

$/Annual kWh is currently maximized by 8-11% CdTe, but only besting 16-22% Si by about 20%. The chinese are making complete panels for $1.09 - 1.34/peak watt. Guess what? Without installation costs that's cheaper than coal! Guess what? doubling the cost for installation & shipping puts it within 10-30% the cost of coal! LIKE OMG!!! Guess what? installation will trim by 40% when ridiculous regulations are lifted! Guess what solar is here, now, and it is the future! And the US will buy it from CHINA because we lacked any and all forsight because people listen to crazy neighbors like you! Our energy money will slowly shift from the Sheiks to the communists Ahh how funny.

You drop in Florida as if it means you have a good solar resource. However Florida is incredibly intermittent, such that, the state has a relatively POOR solar resource on average. In fact, its bested by Minnesota a place where very few panels will produce meaningful electricity past ohh about 2pm today. There are, however, some incredibly good spots for solar resource in Florida, but without listing your location your comment is worthless.

I'm still skeptical of your 10 yr payback. Maybe if you live in a crappy part of florida with 1) No incentives 2) A hostile utility 3) Increased installation costs due to local regulations 4) Poor solar resource THEN your payback will be 10 yr. However, DIY a few panels and your payback is 7 yrs TOPS. I know this because I'm charging roughly a 40% overhead and my MN customers for plan, install, commission and systems as recent as 2005 are paying back (14% Si) My average has gone from about 9yr in 2004 to 7 yr in 2009.

Your goofball comment about efficiency is ridiculous. The efficiency of no machine throughout the history of man has progressed the way you envision so I don't understand what makes you think PV will. Nor does the efficiency of infinite junction quantum dot Fresnel concentrating cells really matter. The focus on the real commercial PV industry for the last 15 yr has been cost reductions. The newest tech in the field dates to about 1995... Improvements are to increase yield, reduce cost, and increase economies of scale.

Good luck down there at sea level!

cheap highpower photocells, the ultimate vaporwear (4, Insightful)

nloop (665733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543298)

Does anyone else notice every few months an amazing breakthrough in solar cells that will increase solar efficiency by 10^x power or lower the cost to nearly free? Meanwhile, the solar panels for useful applications are still expensive and space consuming?

I'm [slashdot.org] kind [slashdot.org] of [slashdot.org] getting [slashdot.org] tired [slashdot.org] of [slashdot.org] it. [slashdot.org]

Re:cheap highpower photocells, the ultimate vaporw (2, Insightful)

RandomFactor (22447) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543338)

"or lower the cost to nearly free?"

I think the term you are looking for is 'too cheap to meter' :-\

Re:cheap highpower photocells, the ultimate vaporw (1)

Hitto (913085) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543344)

plus fucking one. THIS revolution is going to be televised and there's nothing we can do about it.

Only a big company would bother to start mass-buying and installing these, and be able to feed its employees.

And what about the end-of-the-food-chain-customers? In my case (france), you also have to convice the other landowners/condo owners that it "will not make their roof ugly". It's a seven-story building... -_-;

That's in France, by the way. Last time I went to germany, most individual houses had solar roofs. I found them beautiful.

Re:cheap highpower photocells, the ultimate vaporw (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543348)

There is a reason for this. Up until about the past 5 years there has been minimal manufacturing capacity globally. Everything was limited to laboratory experiments at universities or venture capital companies that like press releases. Now that we actually have companies making cells in volume the $/Watt has been driven down immensely. Take a look at first solar currently running somewhere near $0.90/Watt (solar cell production not end cost to consumer)

Re:cheap highpower photocells, the ultimate vaporw (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543686)

"...that will increase solar efficiency by 10^x power or lower the cost to nearly free?"

In a word: no.
Exaggeration gets you nowhere.

In the mean time nanosolar is mass producing at $1 per Watt.

100th the size? (1)

desmogod (792414) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543314)

,quote.The glitter-sized solar sequins are made from crystalline silicon and use 100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers

Does this mean they are also 100th of the size of a contemporary cell with the same output ratings? If so, that's a very impressive figure and I would be quite excited about this tech.

The solar cells could be incorporated into unusual shapes and materials such as tents, building facades, and clothing, making it possible for people to recharge cell phones and other electronic devices as they walk around or rest.

The last thing I want to worry about whilst camping is even having a cell phone turned on, let alone recharging it.

Efficiency of current cells less than 1%???? (1)

syousef (465911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543322)

Huh? 100 times more efficient? How does that work when current cells are more than 1% efficient to begin with. You can't pull out energy that isn't there? What am I missing?

Re:Efficiency of current cells less than 1%???? (1)

nloop (665733) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543374)

100 times less material to generate the same amount of electricity as standard solar cells made from 6-inch square solar wafers

from the article: As of now the solar cells are producing energy with 14.9 percent efficiency, which is pretty great compared to off-the-shelf commercial modules which range from 13 to 20 percent.

Gotta read them things!

Re:Efficiency of current cells less than 1%???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543384)

they meant 1 / 100 more efficient MATERIAL usage, given the same amount of starting silicon, to produce the same amount of electricity.

PR BS (4, Interesting)

pz (113803) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543402)

One hundred times less material? More efficient? Glitter?

Sounds suspiciously like sound bites designed by a PR office for pickup by the press. I thought that Slashdot editors saw through that sort of malarky.

I'm going to go out on a limb: does anyone know if the limiting factor in determining the costs of a solar cell is the amount of material used? I had thought it was the intensive processing required to create a solar cell, rather than the cost of the silicon, which, thanks to the gargantuan and heroic efforts of integrated circuit manufacturers, is vanishingly small for incredibly high quality (what other industry delivers seven 9s purity?). If the amount of material isn't relevant, then reducing it by a factor of 100 isn't that interesting, is it?

Re:PR BS (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544878)

They are not 100x more efficient. They use 100x less silicon. Which, if my math is correct, means that the manufacture of one unit of these things generates 99x as much silicon as the manufacture of a similarly performing "standard" unit costs.

How do you wire them up? (2, Insightful)

StayFrosty (1521445) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543430)

I'd like to know how one would go about wiring these tiny solar cells up. It probably wouldn't be too bad on a flat surface but It doesn't seem like it would be very easy on flexible surfaces like textiles.

Re:How do you wire them up? (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543478)

I'd like to know how one would go about wiring these tiny solar cells up.

      I agree that wiring is often the big problem when dealing with brittle, fragile solar cells. However it would be interesting if these small chips could be woven into a flexible, layered fabric. Then installation could be as simple as stretching/gluing the fabric over a surface, and inserting the electrodes in the appropriate layer. Now THAT would be a leap forward!

Re:How do you wire them up? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544106)

I'd like to know how one would go about wiring these tiny solar cells up. It probably wouldn't be too bad on a flat surface but It doesn't seem like it would be very easy on flexible surfaces like textiles.

We need a way to automatically orient them at will, using perhaps an electric field, if we could make this specks act like electric dipoles (perhaps when shined upon so that they separate their internal electric charge). Then, a conductive, elastic adhesive that binds only to particular kind (shape) of surface (which would be deposited on cell terminals) would be used to bind them in series or in parallel to conductive threads.

... or something like that ...

Sometimes, the simplest solution is also the best (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543484)

A couple of mirrors, a tube with water or oil, some turbines and some HVDC lines. Very simple, cheap, easy to fix, known technology. Every African desert country can build them and have more energy than they can use.

Sure, photovoltaic cells are useful and cool to have. But my bets and my money are on this. :)

Anyway, all we need now, is a energy storage system that is just as nice and simple. :)

"TOP....MEN..." (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543502)

I'd imagine that in the same warehouse with the Ark of the Covenant, the process for Cold Fusion, the Cure for Cancer, and a thousand other sources of cheap energy....a spot for this gem is being cleared.

Too much silicon use? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543622)

is a 6 inch square wafer around .2 millimeters thick per cell too much material usage from the most abundant element on the earths crust?

Re:Too much silicon use? (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543996)

The question is: how much energy is needed to refine the silicon? That is the big cost driver for silicon right now. Use less purified silicon and costs go down. Thin film panels have energy payback times of weeks to months while silicon panels have payback time between one and three years. This mainly accounts for the cost difference.

How to use the electricity? (2, Insightful)

srothroc (733160) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543680)

It would be interesting if these "glitter cells" could be suspended in some kind of "paint" or perhaps embedded in a capacitative tile. The paint especially would have a lot of interesting uses -- cover your car, for example.

Re:How to use the electricity? (1)

webdog314 (960286) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544068)

It would be interesting if these "glitter cells" could be suspended in some kind of "paint" or perhaps embedded in a capacitative tile. The paint especially would have a lot of interesting uses -- cover your car, for example.

Because we all want cars that look like they were manufactured by Mattel.

But... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543682)

what about those of us that have an irrational fear of glitter?

The glitter... It's everywhere! IT"S IN MY EYES!

green energy? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30543826)

And the chemicals used in its production are probably so toxic, they kill everything in a five mile radius when they decompose. How much do you want to bet that in the race for clean, free energy they felt free to irrevocably contaminate a different sector of the world? Worse, they'll probably market it as green energy.

Let's get the econ right (3, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543880)

I'm awfully tired of these articles predicting something will be better, cheaper to make and therefore much cheaper to buy.

Nothing in the history of the world that is better than an existing product has been sold for less.

    Things end up being sold at a price very near what they're worth to the end user, which often has no relation to their cost of manufacture. Think of perfume, diamonds, or celebrity-diet plans.

Also for something exposed to the elements that has to last many years, there are so many ways to fail. Temperature cycles, moisture, UV, hail, corrosion-- all of these have to protected against,
and the cost of these goes up as you make the cells smaller and more fragile.

It's swell to have better (in some sense) cells, but that's just a small part of the overall picture.

Re:Let's get the econ right (2, Insightful)

cellocgw (617879) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544858)

I'm awfully tired of these articles predicting something will be better, cheaper to make and therefore much cheaper to buy.

Nothing in the history of the world that is better than an existing product has been sold for less.

You ever looked at the prices of, say, TV sets, or..... PCs?

Getting close to Nanosolar (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30543950)

The reduction in material use is very important for silicon. Nanosolar is at the point where its solar cells are a smaller cost component in solar panels than the glass in the panels. http://www.nanosolar.com/sites/default/files/NanosolarCellWhitePaper.pdf [nanosolar.com] To compete, silicon needs to do the same. In some ways, thin film amorphous silicon does this, but the low efficiency means that you need more glass to generate the same amount of power. Crystalline silicon with low material requirements and higher efficiency than Nanosolar's material will likely deliver a lower price point than Nanosolar or First Solar's thin film technology because the cost driver will be MW/ton of glass rather than the cost of the PV material, the cost region that the thin film producers are exploring already.

The real press release (3, Informative)

zogger (617870) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544134)

Here is the real sandia labs press release with more detail

http://www.sandia.gov/news/resources/news_releases/glitter-sized-solar-photovoltaics-produce-competitive-results/ [sandia.gov]

They suggest using an industrial "pick and place" machine to assemble the tiny cells onto a substrate for making the panel, at a cost of 1/10th a penny a "glitter", and you can also add a concentrator above each cell

So I don't know with government work like this, do they license patents, is it automatically open (it should be) or what? Seems like a nice breakthrough, but it still just adds to the list of other incredible breakthroughs that have lead to not much at all for reducing watts per dollar at the retail level with solar PV in general. If some one company gets it and it is locked up in a for profit patent for years and years, they will just reduce their own costs then charge the normal global prices we have seen for the past long time, around ~ five bucks per watt. None of these dozens of breakthroughs we have seen are going to be all that useful until that situation changes.

Energy independence is a national security and economic recovery issue, (along with all this climate change jazz they keep going on about) so maybe this tech will be freely licensed to drop prices and actually get this stuff to the end consumer in mass quantities.

For the love of whomever... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544224)

Can we PLEASE stop saying "100 times less"? If I have 10 grams of something, 100 times less is 1000 grams less -- I now have -990 grams!!

The correct phrase is "1%" or "1/100th". Or, conversely: "The current usage is 100 times greater than the new usage".

Flame me if you wish, but why would a scientifically-oriented blog cater to idiot-speak?

Great (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544566)

Now, sell the rights to an American company and require that the work be done in America. It is frustrating that America does all this RD, and then sends it to places that will not even respect the patents.

Clothing? (1)

alexandre (53) | more than 4 years ago | (#30544586)

Why is it that every innovation has to mention clothing as a potential market to sound real?
Where is my aluminum suit again?

And will this actually get something useful to market like a 50W 0.1m solar panel?

100x more efficient than 20%. How is that possible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30544842)

2000% Efficiency.

These guys should get the Nobel in Physics and the Fields Medal in Maths.

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