Stay on Top of the Latest Solar Research

Solar research is not just limited to investigating how to produce solar panels from silicon these days – there are a variety of creative new materials being developed to harness the sun more effectively. As a result of this collective creativity, solar technologies are becoming more efficient, more usable and available at lower costs, additionally there is a proliferation of new solar products and even new uses for solar energy (see our section on hybrid technology below).

As you can see in our enclosed recap of

Solar Patents there has been a marked increase in the number of solar energy technology issued in 2009 and an even faster growth rate appears going on in 2010 as more solar companies and universities are patenting their new solar technologies.

The purpose of this section of our website is to give you an idea of some of promising solar research being done to produce electricity from the sun more efficiently, at lower cost, and to bring attention to some new companies that are introducing new products we are likely to see in the future.

Check back frequently as this website is still in development and we are building and will be updating this section regularly as new research results are reported and added to this page.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

Much of the research you will read about will refer to results verified by the NREL. To learn about the NREL, what it is doing in the area of Solar Research, and its goal of reducing the cost to produce grid-connected electricity solar energy to $0.06/kWh, click here Besides verifying solar technologies, NREL scientists help develop new technologies and then sometimes will partner up with companies to bring these new technologies to market.

To see an example of how this works, check out our article about the new, higher efficiency Black Solar Cells, and NREL's licensing partnership with Natcore to bring this technology to the market in order to increase overall solar module efficiency.

To read more about the same company that developed Black Solar Cells has developed two new technologies that will soon lead to the availability of solar cells with twice the efficiency of currently available monotcrystalline at 1/2 the cost, read our recent research report on Stacked Solar Cells.

Promising University Research

Currently a lot of solar companies and universities are doing solar research to make solar power even more useful and productive. Here is a recap of some of the research we think has a lot of promise:

Nanotube Antennas:

Developed and successfully tested (proof of concept) in the laboratories at MIT, this technology shows great potential to increase the amount of electricity produced without the usual high temperature increase that usually accompanies concentration of light. To read more click here.

Silicon Wire PV Cells:

Professor Atwater at CalTech has developed a new design for solar cells using an array of microscopic silicon wires on a plastic substrate. The new design uses only 1% to 2% of the silicon used in crystalline silicon solar cell and has the added advantage that it the plastic substrate is flexible and it can be applied on on non-flat surfaces. To learn more about this research click here.

60% Efficient Cells are Possible :

Production of solar cells using quantum dots could double the efficiency levels currently possible and reduce costs according to University of Texas Chemist, Xiaoyang Zhu. To read more about this research click here.

Self-Replicating High Efficiency Solar Sells :

In another example of MIT's commitment to Solar Research, researchers have developed solar cells that self-replicate like chloroplasts in plants - achieving initial efficiencies of 40%.

Increased Efficiency

Much of the solar research being done at the university and corporate level by major PV manufacturers is aimed at achieving incremental improvements in module efficiency and/or production efficiency, as evidenced by new world records for efficiency, etc

Here are some recent updates that highlight the results of this type of research:

SunPower New PV Panels Reach 24.2% Efficiency:

SunPower solar panels, already the leader in monocrystalline solar cell efficiency, have no increased the efficiency of their next generation of solar cells. To learn more about SunPower and their newest solar cells, click here.

More Efficient Solar Cells made from Mismatched Materials:

Current solar cell technology produce electricity when certain frequencies of light hit the photoelectric material. New research, using mismatched materials shows great promise in producing electricity from a wide of electromagnetic radiation including infrared. For more information about these Hybrid Solar Cells, click here.

Electrowetting To increase Efficiency

Using an electric charge to change the shape of a fluid helps concentrate light onto the photovoltaic cell and can increase electrical output, or so hope the researchers. To get the details click here.

Lower Cost Solar Cells & Modules

It's pretty clear that while costs to produce electricity from natural resources (coal, gas, nuclear energy) are increasing, costs to produce solar energy are decreasing. On average the cost to produce a watt of solar energy have been declining at an average of 4% per year for the past 20 years, and this trend seems to be gaining momentum as the market keeps growing.

SolarWindow™ by New Energy Technologies

This company has successfully demonstrated the first of its kind organic array that can turn produce solar energy from any window -- both from sunshine and artificial light.

Since I started following this company - the shares have increased from $0.62 from late September I started looking into the company to $1.52 today - Some experts are picking this company to be a big winner in the future. Learn why,

New Product Concepts

Not all research in the lab can be converted into marketable products. I know from first-hand experience that scaling up a technology from lab results, or even from a pilot plant to a mass production plant can be challenging. Frequently, there are two different types of technologies involved – product technology, and process technology; and they require different skill sets and timelines.

With that said, here are some interesting companies actively working to bring new technologies to the market:

SolOptics Can Increase PV Efficiency:

SolOptics has invented a film that can be applied to existing PV panels that will increase the efficiency of the panel (i.e., the amount of electricity produced) by 10 to 12.5%. To read more, click here.

NOC on Solar Can Increase kWh Production:

You need to keep your solar panels clean to produce the maximum amount of electricity. NOC on Solar is a hydrophobic coating that can be applied on new or existing solar panels that helps make them self-cleaning and increases your ROI. To read more click here.

Hybrid Solar Technologies

In this section of Solar Research we highlight some interesting work being done in using solar energy to make other forms of energy production more efficient. For example:

Coal & CSP Hybrid:

Xcel Energy began operating a pilot plant in Colorado to demonstrate the possibility of using Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) to reduce green-house emissions from coal burning power plants. For full details click here.

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