Published June 19, 2012
By Philippe Crowe
New Energy Technologies, Inc., a developer of see-through solar cells for generating electricity on glass, announced yesterday an improvement in its manufacturing technique that should lead to higher speed, lower costs and greater durability.
Teaming with the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), New Energy Technologies Inc. has developed the use of low-cost materials and a special application technique that could help optimize the movement of electrons within the ultra-thin solar cells. This should increase the amount of electricity produced when New Energy’s see-through SolarWindow prototype is exposed to natural or artificial light.
Importantly, the improvement to the technology can be executed at ambient pressure and low temperatures, allowing researchers to avoid the use of materials that must otherwise be applied using high temperature vacuum deposition. Vacuum deposition is both expensive and time-consuming and, thus, not practical for high speed and large-scale applications. Today’s innovation promotes low processing temperatures, enabling high-speed roll-to-roll (R2R) and sheet-to-sheet (S2S) manufacturing. This large-area, R2R and S2S fabrication capability and improved durability of SolarWindow technology are crucial for production of market-ready electricity-generating coatings on see-through glass and plastic.
While this technology is mostly aimed at residential and commercial buildings, it is not far fetched to imagine this technology used on a car’s sunroof or side windows to help keep the batteries topped up.
Previously, New Energy, with assistance from University of South Florida and NREL, developed important improvements to New Energy’s SolarWindow technology, capable of generating electricity on see-through glass. These improvements include enhancements that address advancing durability, power performance, and cost-effective manufacturability – all important to the eventual commercial deployment of New Energy’s SolarWindow technology.
“Over the past few months, our researchers have unveiled a virtually invisible conductive wiring system, which collects and transports electricity on SolarWindow prototypes, and have fabricated a large area working module, which is more than 14-times larger than previous organic photovoltaic devices fabricated at NREL,” stated John A. Conklin, president and CEO of New Energy Technologies, Inc. “Earlier, we developed our first-ever working SolarWindow prototype using a faster, rapid scale-up process for applying solution-based coatings.
“Together, these achievements have moved us closer to our manufacturing, scale-up, durability, and power production goals - all important factors to advancing our SolarWindow technology towards commercial launch,” Conklin added.
To generate electricity on SolarWindow prototypes, researchers creatively layer and arrange unique, ultra-thin see-through solar cells onto glass. Each of these cells is arranged in a network and interconnected by way of a virtually invisible grid-like wiring system.
Within these ultra-thin solar cells, the light-induced movement of electrons generates electricity. When SolarWindow prototypes are exposed to light, the light’s energy prompts electron movement through specific physical and chemical mechanisms leading to power generation.
Dr. Scott R. Hammond, principal scientist at New Energy Technologies, Inc., believes the discovery announced today could also favorably improve durability and shelf-life of the Company’s future SolarWindow products.
“NREL scientists have previously published unrelated results that demonstrate dramatic improvements to the operational and shelf-life of unprotected (i.e., non-encapsulated) photovoltaic devices utilizing related materials when subjected to continuous illumination,” he said. “No doubt, this is a promising and significant advancement.”