Copper indium gallium selenide solar cells

Nanosolar, a company supported by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (the founders of Google), has announced that it will be selling thin-film solar cells profitably for $1 a watt. Apparently, the cells are printed with copper indium gallium selenide – an alternative to silicon. Cells based on the material can convert solar radiation to electricity with 19.5% efficiency. In theory, this material can applied to foil, plastic, glass or cement – producing electricity generating surfaces. It can also be made into more conventional panels of the sort Nanosolar is starting to sell.

In the 1950s, solar cells cost about $200 per watt. By 2004 they were down to $2.70. Further reductions could make solar power cost competitive with fossil fuels, potentially even in the absence of carbon pricing. Combined with either better storage (to moderate light/dark and sunny/cloudy cycles locally) or better inter-regional transmission (the sun is always shining somewhere), such cells could eventually make a big difference in the overall energy balance. Solar has been discussed here previously.

Author: Milan

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in International Relations and a general focus in the area of environmental politics. In the fall of 2005, I began reading for an M.Phil in IR at Wadham College, Oxford. Outside school, I am very interested in photography, writing, and the outdoors. I am writing this blog to keep in touch with friends and family around the world, provide a more personal view of graduate student life in Oxford, and pass on some lessons I've learned here.

6 thoughts on “Copper indium gallium selenide solar cells”

  1. this is awesome. Battery banks are not terribly expensive. If solar continues to get cheaper it may be cheaper for people with cabins to use solar rather than go to the expense of being hooked up to the grid. That seems meaninglessly frivolous, but for it to become mainstream to live “off grid”, would be a significant thing indeed. If houses were able to produce their own electricity society would be much less susceptible to immediate collapse.

  2. This sounds pretty cool, not least because applying the material to building materials like cement could (in theory) turn walls, sidewalks, glass skyscrapers etc into energy generating devices. Given the immense about of concrete we use, combining concrete with solar cells seems like a good way to increase use of solar power. Presumably, though, we are some way from knowing whether solar panel covered skyscrapers (for instance) are a viable option.

  3. Nanosolar Update
    Monday, December 31, 2007

    The solar panels produced by a Silicon Valley start-up company, Nanosolar, are radically different from the kind that European consumers are increasingly buying to generate power from their own roofs. Printed like a newspaper directly on to aluminium foil, they are flexible, light and, if you believe the company, expected to make it as cheap to produce electricity from sunlight as from coal.

    However, the company, which claims to lead the “third wave” of solar electricity, is notoriously secretive and has not answered questions about its panels’ efficiency or their durability. It is quite open about wanting to restrict access to the technology to give it a market advantage.

  4. New Solar Cell Sets World Efficiency Record

    By ScuttleMonkey on hot-tech

    asoduk writes to tell us that a new world record has been set for the most efficient photovoltaic device. Topping the scale at 40.8% efficiency, the new solar cell differs significantly from the previous record holder. “Instead of using a germanium wafer as the bottom junction of the device, the new design uses compositions of gallium indium phosphide and gallium indium arsenide to split the solar spectrum into three equal parts that are absorbed by each of the cell’s three junctions for higher potential efficiencies. This is accomplished by growing the solar cell on a gallium arsenide wafer, flipping it over, then removing the wafer. The resulting device is extremely thin and light and represents a new class of solar cells with advantages in performance, design, operation and cost.”

  5. The rise of thin-film solar power
    Leaner and cheaper

    Oct 22nd 2009 | WASHINGTON, DC
    From The Economist print edition
    The future of solar power is not only bright but also thin

    First Solar makes its cells from a chemical called cadmium telluride. But firms such as Nanosolar, which is building factories in California and Germany, believe that a combination of copper, indium, gallium and selenium known as CIGS will prove cheaper to produce on a mass scale. Researchers at the University of California, meanwhile, hold out great hopes for cells made of organic chemicals.

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