Thursday, June 13, 2013

Solar cell that supplies energy and self-charge simultaneously

The reason solar power is expensive is partly due to the need for energy storage (battery). The cost of storage battery in a solar PV system is said to be as much as 40% of the total system installation cost.

So, when a group of research team from the University of Wisconsin in Madison demonstrated the viability of a design for solar panels that can generate and store energy from sunlight in a single device, it is something that many think as dream come true.

We may be able to get rid of this battery soon. Image credit:

Unlike other solar cells, apart from producing electricity, the panels would also store electrons on zinc oxide nanowires coated with polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) polymer.

The energy stored during the day could be used to run the lights at night or on cloudy days. Put simply, the panel also acts as battery.

The high dielectric characteristic of the PVDF makes it suitable for energy storage.

Although the system has only about 4% efficiency - pretty low compared about 24% efficiency of most commercial solar panels in use today - the prospect for alternative storage solution is quite promising.

More research should be done. If prices of solar panels can be reduced at great pace, advancement in finding alternative storage solutions should be no different.

"When there's no sunlight, the stored power will come back through the nano wires to power the load. We can have some energy set aside locally, right in the panel, so that when you need it, you can get it."
Hongrui Jiang, University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Reference and further reading:
a) Innovative solar cell structure - UW-Madison

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