Feeds

Big Blue boffins hatch dirt-cheap solar cells

'Earth abundant' materials

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

IBM researchers have developed a new class of solar-powered electricity-generating cells that they claim will bring photovoltaic cells closer to cost parity with conventional energy sources.

The researchers from IBM's T. J. Watson Research Center in Yorktown Heights, New York have published their findings in a paper entitled "High-Efficiency Solar Cell with Earth-Abundant Liquid-Processed Absorber," available here (PDF).

The materials used in the new cell are copper, zinc, tin, selenium, and sulfur - the latter two "earth-abundant" materials being in a chalcogenide compound, key to the photovoltaic properties of the cell.

The use of these materials bypasses problems inherent in the more-common components of solar cells. The heavy metal cadmium, for example, has toxicity complications, and indium and tellurium (also a chalcogen) are rare and therefore unable to support, as the paper says, more than "a small fraction of our growing energy needs, which are expected to double to 27TW by 2050."

Another advantage of the new cell is that it's manufactured using a simple, non-vacuum process based on what the researchers call a "slurry-based coating method" that allows the photovoltaic layer to be applied by printing, spraying, spin-coating, or other liquid-based techniques.

The efficiency of the new experimental cell is currently at 9.6 per cent, which approaches that of most commerically available solar cells today. IBM's research, however, is still at an early stage, and the new "earth-abundant" cells may very well match or surpass current - relatively expensive - cells and do so at a lower cost and with higher availability. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
prev story

Whitepapers

Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Internet Security Threat Report 2014
An overview and analysis of the year in global threat activity: identify, analyze, and provide commentary on emerging trends in the dynamic threat landscape.