A US renewable energy start-up says it has developed a new and effective method for the scaled-up production of spray-on solar PV technology.
The spray-on photovoltaic technology, developed by New Energy Technologies in collaboration with the University of South Florida and the US Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), can be applied to existing transparent glass windows, and is capable of harvesting energy from both natural sunlight as well as the artificial illumination provided by fluorescent and LED lamps.
The technology entailed the development of the world’s smallest functional organic solar cells, each of which are a mere quarter the size of a grain of rice. These minute solar cells can be sprayed onto the surface of a window in sub-micrometer layers which are just a tenth the thickness of conventional thin films, or a thousandth the thickness of a human hair.
The creation of the technology itself however, is only one part of the long process of bringing it to market. Following the initial trials of the spray-on PV technology, New Energy has since been preoccupied with the development of cost-effective, large-scale fabrication methods which can make the technology commercially feasible.
New Energy CEO John Conklin said the company has successfully devised a high-speed roll-to-roll and sheet-to-sheet manufacturing process which promises to bring spray-on solar PV a major step closer to commercial launch.
He said the method devised by New Energy scientists possesses significant advantages in the areas of cost and practicality, as well as the resilience of the finished product.
The new manufacturing process obviates the need for costly and time-consuming vacuum deposition techniques, and can be implemented at low temperatures and ambient pressures. The method is also much faster, and leads to the creation of products with heightened durability and a longer operation life.
According to Dr. Scott Hammond, principal scientist with New Energy, NREL scientists have already published unrelated results which indicate that the process leads to dramatic improvements in the performance and shelf-life of unprotected photovoltaic devices which are manufactured from similar materials and subject to constant illumination.