Imagine being able to turn your glass windows into solar panels. That potential is currently being developed by companies including Octillion Corp.
Amorphous silicon, the non-crystalline form of silicon silicon particles 1-4 nanometers in diameter (the width of human hair is approximately 80000 nanometers) are being used by Octillion Corp. to create a film that can be applied to glass windows.
Amorphous silicon can be used in very thin film, yet will remain very flexible, wheras crystalline silicon used in most solar panels today is many times thicker and must be applied to a rigid, flat surface. Some great progress has already been made by others in the thin film field – another company called Nanosolar started shipping cheap thin film solar panels recently.
The less silicon needed to create solar cells, the cheaper they are to make. In fact, Nanosolar believes they will be profitably selling solar panels wholesale at as little as 99c a watt.
But back to Octillion Corp.’s endeavors. The film being created for glass windows will still let most of the light through and additionally, it can also be used to boost the efficiency of existing solar panels by up to 70% in the ultraviolet light range and 10% in the visible.
I couldn’t find any data on the efficiency of the solar glass product they are developing, but other competitors have claimed conversion efficiencies of up to 4% under research conditions. While a regular solar panel’s efficiency is around 14-19%, with far less silicon being used, potential cost savings and extended coverage could more than make up for the difference.
All this “under development” solar energy stuff is very exciting, but I’m really looking forward to these whizz bang advancements actually being available to the average Joe. Even companies like Nanosolar will be shipping only to industrial customers for a while to come :(.