3D Solar Cells Make Trackers Obsolete


A basic problem with solar panels is that they are almost always flat. In order to maintain maximum efficiency they have to be directly perpendicular to the sun. So, either we deal with sub-par efficiency through 95% of the day, or we build expensive motor-driven sun-trackers.

Jud Ready, at the Georgia Tech Research Institute has come up with another solution. But building solar panels that are basically composed of millions of tiny photovoltaic skyscrapers on a conducting grid. Because the skyscrapers are oriented veritically with gaps between them, photons are readily absorbed and converted to electricity even when the hit the panel at an angle.

This also makes the cells perfect for cloudy climates, when the amount of light is the same, but the clouds scatter the sunlight in lots of directions.

The photovoltaic material being used in these 3D cells is currently cadmium, which is unfortunately toxic, and less efficient than some other materials, but Ready says that many other light-active substances could be used in the panels. They aren't sure how much the can boost efficiency compared to current panels, but millions of tiny skyscrapers can't be all wrong.