Breakthrough in nano technology could see the cost of solar panels slashed
Finding efficient alternative sources of energy to fill the gap once the world has run out of fossil fuels has been something scientists have been striving to discover for decades. One of the great hopes has been solar power, with the assumption that harnessing the power of the sun, particularly in developing countries south of the equator, can help keep the planet running without harming the environment.
Unfortunately the trouble with solar power is the cost. Installing solar panels on buildings requires relatively high initial investment, and although governments have been keen to offer some form of subsidies, people have been reluctant to commit to such an outlay that may not be recouped from more efficient power use for many years. Another prohibitive barrier to solar power taking off is the difficulty in storing energy generated for use at a later date.
New research, however, could lead to the industry slashing prices and emerging as the most cost efficient form of renewable energy. A breakthrough by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California, led by Professor Alex Zettl, could see almost any material converted into a solar power conducting surface.
One example could be the conversion of windows so that they can generate power from the sun, causing much more efficient power generation.
It is hoped that this will spur a new wave of investment in the industry. Professor Zettl said yesterday: “It’s time we put bad materials to good use. Our technology allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic seminconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.”