Living An Environmentally Friendly Lifestyle

Friday, January 3, 2014

Graphene - New Miracle Technology for Solar

Graphene technology will soon do for the tech industry what silicone did a few decades back.  It is the thinnest, lightest, and strongest compound known to man.  It is better at conducting electricity and heat than any other material ever discovered.  Chemically, graphene is simply pure carbon.  One of the most abundant elements in the universe. 

Though more research and development is needed, graphene promises to change electronics as we know it today.  Everything from battery storage to cellphones and televisions to superconductors, and beyond.  We can't even begin to imagine the limitless possibilities graphene has to offer.

But what has really captured my attention lately is graphene's use in solar energy production.  Graphene is thinner, cheaper, and more abundant than the silicone required for solar technology.  Graphene also captures light at lower levels.  This in itself will create great advances in solar use and grid parity for the solar industry, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. 

Materials used in solar panels such as silicon turn light into electricity but it produces a photon for every electron produced, meaning that a lot of potential energy is lost as heat.  According to a new study at The Institute of Photonic Sciences in Spain graphene can convert a single photon of light into multiple electrons to drive an electric current.  This relation between the photon energy and the number of generated excited electrons proved that graphene converts light into electricity at a high efficiency level of 60% compared to different silicone technologies 6-15% efficiency.

What Does Graphene Mean for Solar?
So what does this all mean for the solar industry?  Everything.  Not only does graphene promise to lower the cost of solar panels tremendously, it also offers to get rid of the panels completely.  Solar cells will soon be developed as a 2 dimensional product as the entire solar cell layer would be just a few microns in thickness.

Imagine a house or building covered in solar paint. Glass windows coated with a solar spray and still 100% transparent. Or how about solar curtains to cover the windows when the sun is shining too bright into your house.

There are other applications where graphene will improve solar production.  Graphene is now being studied for use in electrical storage applications such as graphene batteries.  Graphene battery technology could potentially revolutionize the battery industry.  Since the problem with renewable energy is the fact we have no proper way to store excess energy for later use, graphene battery technology may one day remove that barrier.  Studies suggest graphene batteries have the capabilities to store far more energy and offer a a much longer life than conventional batteries.  In addition, graphene batteries would be far lighter and more versatile than other batteries available today.

Using Graphene in the Auto industryCan you imagine an electric car with a solar clear coat, and solar windshield all working together to charge the lightweight graphene batteries?  Maybe a cellphone being charged in your pocket from your solar pants or better yet from the solar powered touchscreen?  It's all possible with graphene technology.


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