South Africa Pioneers New Solar Technology

A few days ago an article appeared in the Cape Argus of South Africa, proclaiming a breakthrough in solar power technology. We could not find a great deal of correlating reports, so will simply relay what what we found from just a few sources. Apparently the technology resulted from over 10 years of research, led by Professor Vivian Alberts of the University of Johannesburg. He and his team seem to have developed a flexible, thin, metal alloy that is "photo-responsive". This alloy is said to result in panels with are only 5 micron thick (compared to a human hair at 20 microns, and silicon photovoltaic cells at 350 microns.) Earlier reports (in 2004) indicated the alloy was copper-indium(gallium)-diselenide (CIGS), with another article inferring the panels would have a useful life of about 20 years, with the energy in fabricating them recovered within the first 1-2 years of operation. And that the materials used could all be later recycled to make fresh cells. It is said that a standard family home would need around 30m/sq ("(about the size of a living room") of CIGS solar panels to meet all its electricity demands.Unspecified new storage devices (batteries of some sort) and converters have been created alongside these new cells to store the collected energy. It is suggested these new panels can generate electricity even during winter, not requiring direct sunlight to function. Seemingly German investors are behind establishing European plants, which will be producing 1,000 such panels per day, with local South African factories to also be contemplated. Much Thanks to TH Tipster Conrad Z. for pointing us to the piece in the ::Cape Argus.

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