Solar Panels

Suggestions for new distributed computing projects.

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Solar Panels

Postby shadowmage13 » Sun Nov 20, 2005 10:15 pm

How about a project to increase the efficiency of solar-panels? Would that work out well?
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Re: Solar Panels

Postby carlos » Mon Nov 21, 2005 12:01 am

shadowmage13 wrote:How about a project to increase the efficiency of solar-panels? Would that work out well?


I don't think so. The efficiency depends upon the angle at which sunlight hits a solar panel.

Carlos
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Postby dgould » Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:23 am

I don't think so. The efficiency depends upon the angle at which sunlight hits a solar panel.


That is a very general statement. Sure, how much electricity you get out of the solar cells depends on how much light is hitting them - you could have the most efficient cells in the world, but ultimately, if they are covered up with a piece of plywood or something, they are useless :) . Angle does matter, however - that's true. Light intensity (where you are located on the planet) also matters, as well as if there are magnifying lens in front of the cells, antireflective coating, etc. etc.

[From here on out correct me if you are more knowledgeable, please.]

Primarily, it is what the cells are made of and how they are manufactured that determines the efficiency.

I'll put quotes around all of the info I stole off of Wikipedia, but in a nutshell, here is the deal with solar cell efficiency:
"A photon only needs to have energy greater than the band gap energy to excite an electron from the valence band into the conduction band."

[ excited electron(s) ==> electricity from the solar cells ]

"However, the solar frequency spectrum approximates a black body spectrum at ~6000 K, and as such, much of the solar radiation reaching the Earth is composed of photons with energies greater than the band gap of silicon."

My emphasis; basically, most of the light that reaches Earth is not turned into electricity by today's current solar cells.

"...These higher energy photons will be absorbed by the solar cell, but the difference in energy between these photons and the silicon band gap is converted into heat (via lattice vibrations - called phonons) rather than into usable electrical energy."

- the light hitting the cells just heats 'em up instead of turning into electricity.


Now, you can make different solar cells that can turn different wavelengths of light into electricity. From there, you can make solar cells that turn more than one group of light wavelengths into electricity.
"Such cells have many diodes in series, each with a different band gap energy so that it absorbs its share of the electromagnetic spectrum with very high efficiency. Triple junction solar cell have (as the name suggest) 3 diodes layered on top of each other, each absorbing a different spectrum of light, efficiency as high as 28% have been achieved."



Distributed computing is good for problems that require many simulations, problems that require searching through many candidates, testing them against a 'fitness' to see which one turns out to be the best... problems that are divided up into small parts easily.

The closest application of DC on solar cell research that I could see would be simulating the light wavelength absorption effectiveness of different compounds doped on silicon - most solar cells today are wafers of high purity silicon with impurities 'doped' onto them so that they are able to turn light into electricity (read Wikipedia to find out how this happens.)

Considering that solar cell research has been going on for several decades, I would be quite suprised if nothing even remotely like this has already been done - but who knows? Seemingly obvious contributions to science are made all the time... a couple of years ago, scientists discovered that magnesium diboride was a superconductor; it was a common compound, but no one had ever bothered to test it and see if it was a superconductor. Cool story - look it up!

Anyone working in the field of photovoltaics that cares to weigh in on my reply and on this idea in general? Please, have at it! I love solar cells, and a solar cell DC project would be unimaginably awesome :D .
Join the Hendrix College DC Team at World Community Grid or a BOINC project near you!
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Postby shadowmage13 » Mon Nov 21, 2005 4:15 am

yes I was thinking about the efficiency of the solar cell i think, although i do not fully have time to read about how it works, I know the angle of light and intensity matter, thats just common sense. There is a slashdot article about DARPA Awards $53 Million for Solar Power Research at http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl? ... 60&tid=137 so i thought that a DC project on solar panels would be neat
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Postby jasong » Thu Jun 14, 2007 2:29 am

My dad came up with the idea for solar panels without me even telling him about these posts. I was simply attempting to get him to find a DC project he'd be willing to run. He just made an off the cuff remark about how "a project to improve the efficiency of solar panels would be cool." I don't think I've ever talked about the idea with him, which is what makes it so amazing.
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