Coating Solar Cells to Boost their Lifespan
One critical consideration that has largely gone unnoticed amidst the recent wave of innovation in solar cell technology has been a focus on durability - and finding ways to increase cells' lifespan. Most polymer, or thin film, solar cells currently have a lifespan of about 25-30 years; over time, their ability to convert sunlight into electricity is degraded by UV light.
A team of researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, led by materials scientist Yang Yang, has developed a "photon conversion material," a special coating, that turns UV photons into visible light ones - which have longer wavelengths. As Justin Mullins reports in New Scientist, the coating, when applied to the cells, not only boosts the cells' energy conversion efficiency; it also increases their longevity by sharply reducing the damage caused to the cells. The researchers believe the coating could well add a few more years to the cells' lifespan.In their initial runs, Yang and his colleagues used polymer blue polyfluorene to extend the cells' longevity; they noted, however, that a range of materials - liquids, gels, solids or nanoparticles - would do the trick. Materials engineering boffos can read over the full patent application here.
Image courtesy of Clearly Ambiguous via flickr