How to double the power of solar panels

October 16, 2012

Solar collectors: A micrograph shows silicon nanowires produced by Bandgap Engineering. They can help a solar cell absorb more light. (Credit: Bandgap Engineering)

In an attempt to further drop the cost of solar power, Bandgap Engineering has a long-term project to develop a nanowire-based solar cell that could eventually generate twice as much power as conventional solar cells, Technology Review reports.

Meanwhile the company is about to launch a simpler version of the technology, using silicon nanowires that can improve the performance and lower the cost of conventional silicon solar cells.

Bandgap says its nanowires, which can be built using existing manufacturing tools, boost the power output of solar cells by increasing the amount of light the cells can absorb.

These changes could lead to solar panels that convert more than 20 percent of the energy in sunlight into electricity (compared with about 15 percent for most solar cells now) yet cost only $1 per watt to produce and install, says Richard Chleboski, Bandgap’s CEO.