One thing a solar panel shouldn’t do is reflect the sun — for every photon that bounces off is one less electron of electricity the panel will create.
How to make that panel less shiny? Researchers at the Golden-based National Renewable Energy Laboratory have come up with a solution: peppering a cell with trillions of tiny holes.
The technique dubbed “dark solar” has been licensed to Red Bank, N.J.-based Natcore Technology Inc., which is combining it with its own low-cost solar-cell-manufacturing process.
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“It’s a perfect coupling of technologies,” said Natcore CEO Chuck Provini.
American solar-panel makers have been under pressure as prices dropped more than 50 percent in the past five years because of a flood of inexpensive Chinese solar panels.
The question is whether American manufacturers can come up with a technological counterpunch, Provini said.
A flat silicon surface without any treatment will reflect 35 percent of the sunlight that hits it, said Hao-Chih Yuan, an NREL researcher.
That’s why solar manufacturers coat the panels using an expensive and toxic gas-deposition system.
Even with that, about 7 percent of the light still bounces off a poly-silicon cell.