In a recent article, NextGen Nano’s Chief Technology Officer Dr Franky So identified how photovoltaic (PV) solar panels could pave the way for significant advancements in the renewable energy industry. Dr So explored the pros and cons of PV solar cell technology, identifying its potential in the global transition to green energy.

What Is PV Technology?

The term ‘photovoltaics’ was coined in around 1890. It is derived from the Greek words phos, meaning light, and volt, which refers to electricity. The direct translation, ‘light-electricity’, essentially describes the way photovoltaic devices and materials work.

Photovoltaics convert light into electricity. Possibly the most widely used example of photovoltaics is the solar-powered calculator, which is powered by a small photovoltaic cell.

Solar PVs do not necessarily need direct sunlight to function, since a small amount of light is often enough for the system to work. Investing in photovoltaics provides electricity not just on long, sunny summer days, but also on cloudy days during the winter months.

Nevertheless, a PV panel’s efficiency is proportional to the amount of light it receives, so the stronger the sun, the better it performs.

Photovoltaic technology uses components with a photoelectric effect to generate electricity. These are called semiconductors. The most common type of semiconductor is silicon. Silicon PV semiconductors absorb photons from light, releasing electrons from the atoms, resulting in an electric current.

Approximately 90% of all PV panels are made from silicon. Material purity, which is dictated by how well the silicon molecules are aligned, determines how well the cell converts solar energy.

Monocrystalline silicon (mono-Si) solar cells contain cylindrical ingots of silicon. Made from the highest-grade silicon, with an efficiency rate of up to 20%, this form of solar cell has the highest efficiency rate. Nevertheless, silicon PV panels have their shortcomings. The circuit can be broken if the panel is partially covered by shade or dirt, and this form of solar panel is also the most expensive to produce.

Polysilicon (p-Si) has lower energy efficiency, at between 13% and 16%. However, they are significantly less expensive to produce than their mono-Si counterparts, and tolerant of lower temperatures.

Dr Franky So of NextGen Nano suggests that we may be on the brink of an evolution in PV technology that could sidestep the issues of economy and efficiency by effectively avoiding them completely. With an experienced management team including Chairman Matthew Stone, NextGen Nano is leading a revolution in solar cell technology. The company has developed a new type of solar cell that substitutes traditional silicon for lightweight organic polymers, resulting in cells that are not only more efficient, but much more flexible.

Called PolyPower, this new generation of solar cells combines PVs with organic semiconductors. The resulting solar cells can be used to make flexible, semi-transparent solar panels with a multitude of different potential uses.

Over the past few years, significant advancements have been achieved in nanotechnology, marrying new materials with new uses. In the case of photovoltaics, experts predict that nanotechnology will make solar cells more economical, drastically reducing the cost of manufacturing solar panels and related equipment, as well as increasing potential uses exponentially.

As Duncan Clark – NextGen Nano’s Director of Operations – will be well aware, the potential of PolyPower is vast. From powering electronic vehicles and wearables to electronics in military hardware, the experts at NextGen Nano predict that the new hardware could have many different applications, making PolyPower an attractive option to environmental experts and product design engineers.

NextGen Nano’s innovative PolyPower technology could prove to be a pivotal step in the global transition to green energies, making the world cleaner and less reliant on pollutants and finite materials.