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Tags nanotechnology , Solar power , sun

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Old 9th November 2008, 10:58 PM   #1
IchabodPlain
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Solar Power and Nanotechnology

I have been reading over the past few years about the integration of nanotechnologies and solar power. Also, there is a company, NanoSolar, claiming they can produce energy at a cheaper cost than that of coal.

Is it true?

How soon before all warm-weather states' roofs are covered with this stuff?
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Old 9th November 2008, 11:18 PM   #2
soylent
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Originally Posted by IchabodPlain View Post
Also, there is a company, NanoSolar, claiming they can produce energy at a cheaper cost than that of coal.

Is it true?
Not even if the panels are free. Installing the panels and building the necessary grid energy storage, transmission and backup power is going to be far more expensive than either coal or nuclear.

Solar PV is not baseload, the extent to which it can compete with and replace baseload energy sources is insignificant.

I remember hearing claims of $1/watt since the late 80's but it never seems to materialize. And $1/watt still wouldn't be that cheap; the capacity factor for solar is typically <25%(often much less). I think that would mostly be appealing to end users because they can skip energy taxes and distribution costs by getting electricity from solar panels during peak hours. In particular, running the AC is an almost perfect fit for solar; you're much less likely to need cooling when the sun doesn't shine.
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Last edited by soylent; 9th November 2008 at 11:32 PM. Reason: eta
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Old 10th November 2008, 12:21 AM   #3
INRM
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Nanoparticles... can those pose dangers if ingested? Bad weather, and structural damage could do it...
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Old 10th November 2008, 12:50 AM   #4
theMark
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Originally Posted by IchabodPlain View Post
Also, there is a company, NanoSolar, claiming they can produce energy at a cheaper cost than that of coal.
Well, this depends entirely on the price of coal

Originally Posted by IchabodPlain View Post
Is it true?
They seem to have mastered the production process and are scaling up their printing machines. Even with their previous rolling press (which produced cells about 8 inches wide), they've started equipping a municipal power plant over here in Germany. I've not heard any news on this, but both the cells and the power output seem adequate enough to get funding and permission for this, so...

Originally Posted by IchabodPlain View Post
How soon before all warm-weather states' roofs are covered with this stuff?
Don't hold your breath. They're on record with saying they won't produce this stuff for end-users and are going for large-scale installations first, and they've already sold their capacities for the next two years. Maybe some competitor will show up, but for now, there's only a handful of companies working with this technology, and Nanosolar seems to be the first to actually deliver.

Yeah, I'd really like a roof full of these plus one or two nickel-chloride high-voltage cells. Energy autonomy, here I come...
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Old 10th November 2008, 12:58 AM   #5
Evilgiraffe
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Originally Posted by INRM
Nanoparticles... can those pose dangers if ingested? Bad weather, and structural damage could do it...
It depends on what the nanoparticles are made of.

However, looking at Nanosolar's website I think it becomes clear that the nanoparticles are involved in the production process but are not present in the final product.

From here

Originally Posted by nanosolar
This ink is based on Nanosolar developing various proprietary forms of nanoparticles and associated organic dispersion chemistry and processing techniques suitable for delivering a semiconductor of high electronic quality.

A key advantage of the ink is specific to an idiosyncracy of the CIGS semiconductor: Because it consists of four elements which have to be in just the right atomic ratios to each other, the ink serves a useful purpose by effectively "locking in" a uniform distribution ("by design"). The homogeneous mix of nanoparticles in the ink in just the right overall amounts ensures that the atomic ratios of the four elements are correct wherever the ink is printed, even across large areas of deposition.

It appears that Nanosolar's breakthrough is to develop an ink that allows the panels to be printed, making them cheaper. While this ink contains nanoparticles, these form the basis of the semiconductor that makes the panel work. To create the actual semiconductor film, the ink must be heated (maybe under vacuum?) to deposit those elements onto the substrate. At this point there will no longer be nanoparticles present, they will have sintered together to form a semiconducting film.

Last edited by Evilgiraffe; 10th November 2008 at 12:59 AM. Reason: rogue capitals
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Old 10th November 2008, 09:02 AM   #6
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There was a thread on this a while back. It seems to be the real deal, although, unsurprisingly, nowhere near as revolutionary as the PR claims. Essentially, they've found a way of making fairly efficient cells at significantly lower cost. It's not going to suddenly change the world and give us all free energy, but it's definitely progress towards making renewables able to stand on their own financially.

As for "nano-technology", I really wish people would stop making such a fuss about it. We've been using nano-technology routinely for decades. For some strange reason far too many people seem to think it either means "This is new and we want it to sound, you know, really cool and futuristicy." or "Ohmigod we're all going to die.". All "nano" means is "10-9. That's it. It's not a catchphrase for cutting edge technology or the end of the world, it's just a size, and one that things have been looked at and manipulated for a long time.
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Old 10th November 2008, 11:59 AM   #7
Evilgiraffe
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The most important use of the word 'nano' nowadays seems to be in grant applications. Nanotechnology is obviously "fundable".

Although in my own field, the rebranding of microporous materials as nanoporous is at least accurate. The pores and channels in zeolites are of nanometre dimensions.

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