Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Technology Science

New Photovoltaics Made with Titanium Foil 346

Posted by timothy
from the light-metal dept.
Memorize writes "A company called Daystartech has released a new type of photovoltaic cell which, unlike almost all the cells currently in use, does not silicon. This is based on a thin titanium film. Given the current shortage of solar-grade silicon, and all-time high oil prices, maybe titanium solar panels are here at the right time. The questions are, will they release it as a consumer solar product, and what will be the price per kilowatt hour?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

New Photovoltaics Made with Titanium Foil

Comments Filter:
  • Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Interesting)

    by klausner (92204) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:02PM (#12071651)
    Like, you think that titanium, and the equipment required to work titanium comes cheap? Cheaper than sand?
    • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Insightful)

      by darkmeridian (119044) <william DOT chuang AT gmail DOT com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:16PM (#12071791) Homepage
      It's not meant to replace largescale silicon photovoltaic cells. Instead, it's meant for use on UAVs and balloons and stuff. Price doesn't matter here, right?
    • Like, you think that titanium, and the equipment required to work titanium comes cheap? Cheaper than sand?

      Don't be foolish. Now you can wear your tinfoil hat, and charge your PDA at the same time. Nobel prize for these guys.
    • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

      by dbIII (701233) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:29PM (#12071897)
      Like, you think that titanium, and the equipment required to work titanium comes cheap? Cheaper than sand?
      Titanium is also available in sand, most commonly in the form of rutile and ilmanite. Most readers here have probaly eaten titanium dioxide taken from sand, it is frequently used as a white food colouring and paint pigment.

      It costs a lot to do anything with titanium because the oxide forms quickly on any exposed surface and takes a lot of energy to break down.

      • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Arthur Dent (76567) on Monday March 28, 2005 @10:45PM (#12072766)
        Actually a new titanium refining process was discovered a short while ago [nih.gov]

        Here we report an electrochemical method for the direct reduction of solid TiO2, in which the oxygen is ionized, dissolved in a molten salt and discharged at the anode, leaving pure titanium at the cathode. The simplicity and rapidity of this process compared to conventional routes should result in reduced production costs and the approach should be applicable to a wide range of metal oxides.

        • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Interesting)

          by digitalchinky (650880) <dtchky@gmail.com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @11:11PM (#12072897)
          The USA has miles upon miles of old military aircraft from what I've seen on television. There should be quite a large amount of titanium left in wing attachments, turbines, and other hard points on decaying fighter jets. I have a small rod of it (from an Airforce friend) that was scrap from an F-111 wing repair. Not very big, but big enough to see how damn strong the stuff is. (few centimeters long)

          Took some serious hitting with a sledge hammer and a vice to put any kind of a bend in the metal. Impressive stuff.

          • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Interesting)

            by K8Fan (37875) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @12:51AM (#12073329) Journal
            Took some serious hitting with a sledge hammer and a vice to put any kind of a bend in the metal. Impressive stuff.

            Want to see something really cool? Check out "Liquidmetal" [liquidmetal.com]. It's an alloy of titanium and other metals and has some really amazing properties. For one, it can be cast and does not form crystals like titanium, has a low melting tempature compared to it's component metals - it can actually be injection-molded. It's twice as strong as titanium by weight and much more flexible. There's a bounce-test video on their web site that it a hoot.

            Right now it's being used for the hinges in that new Motorola Razor phone, various sporting goods and military applications. Cool stuff.

      • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

        by dhovis (303725) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @12:04AM (#12073136)

        IIRC, the problem with titanium is not so much that the raw material is expensive. The problem is not even so much that it oxidizes readily (aluminum does too). The problem is that it has a high melting point, and is very difficult to forge and to machine.

        Pure Ti-metal has a hexagonal close packed microstructure (HCP). Most other metals have a cubic structure (either face centered cubic:FCC or body centered cubic:BCC). FCC and HCP have the same packing effficincy, but it is much easier to form and move dislocations in a lot of different directions in either FCC or BCC than for HCP. Dislocations are necessary for forging, and forging creates such a tangle of dislocations that it actually strengthens the material.

        That is why Apple moved away from Ti for Powerbooks, IMHO. It impossible to economically bend the titanium to form the laptop shell without making the metal so thin that it is way to flexible. So the old Ti-Powerbooks had a Ti top and bottom, with Ti-painted plastic in between. This paint invariably started to flake, which led to lots of complaints. Apple wisely switched to an aircraft grade of aluminum, which can be sufficiently bent and machined to form the entire shell of the laptop, not just the top and bottom.

        Anyway, that is the basics. IAAMSBTDNCMA (I am a materials scientist, but this does not constitute materials advice)

        • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

          by dbIII (701233) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @01:06AM (#12073386)
          The problem is that it has a high melting point, and is very difficult to forge and to machine.
          It is difficult to forge and machine due to the oxide layer - which is very hard and one of the reasons we use it in the first place (it's mostly used in chemical plants). It isn't really a good choice for a laptop since it costs so much to make and is very difficult to do anything with - and aluminium conducts heat better and can be formed while soft for the aircraft grades - the stuff the early 20th century airships were made out of.

          The metal itself has a high strength and hardness, but there are plenty of steels harder than it. The oxide layer is very hard, and as soon as you chip some away it forms again. A slightly harder compound, titanium nitride, is the gold coloured stuff you see plating the tips of cutting tools.

          If the oxide is being used in these cells the process may be surprisingly cheap, since the hard bit is reducing the oxide to metal. If it's something else, there may be ways of making it cheaply from an ore - a mineral sand. If a vapour is being sprayed onto a substrate it might not cost a lot either.

          I'm not a materials scientist anymore, but for a while when I was I used to teach engineering students how to break things under controlled circumstances - and find out why stuff broke under uncontrolled circimstances.

    • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:42PM (#12072000) Homepage
      Monocrystalline silicon is incredibly expensive. Polycrystalline silicon (which has largely taken over in the solar cell market) is simply "very expensive". Silicon is common, but pure silicon crystals require clean-room conditions to grow.

      Titanium isn't that rare. The ore isn't the primary cost component (like, say, gold). Instead, like aluminum, the main costs are in refining. Unlike aluminum, however, there is currently no continuous production process - only an expensive batch production process. Even the inventor of the process, William Kroll expected to have it be replaced within decades of its implementation in 1940; no suitable replacement was found, however.

      Fortunately, it looks like there are some on the horizon. Most interestingly, it appears that electrolysis can be conducted directly on titanium oxide (this has huge potential applications for other hard-to-refine metals as well, and may allow for the creation of new alloys). There's also a aluminum-style molten-salt electrolysis process (FFC-Cambridge) in testing.

      Titanium isn't inherently hard to work with, persay; you just need to be properly equipped to work with it and experienced with it. You have to use *very* pure argon in welding, and you have to keep the argon going for longer after you take the heat off. You also have to avoid working it with aluminum tools, which can alloy with the metal and weaken it. Etc.

      There are some benefits, though. Impurities in titanium are very easy to spot, as they tend to discolor. Also, titanium is *very* fatigue resistant, and aircraft with titanium structural components have sometimes even been found to be stronger after being flown a few times than when they were built.
      • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

        by ikeleib (125180) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:05PM (#12072156) Homepage

        Also, titanium is *very* fatigue resistant, and aircraft with titanium structural components have sometimes even been found to be stronger after being flown a few times than when they were built.

        The above refers to one aircraft in particular. The SR-71/A-12 was found to have a stronger airframe after flight. This is not really due to titanium itself, but rather the gentle heating and cooling that the aircraft underwent with each flight. It annealed the metal, thereby making it stronger and helping to eliminate the fatigue that is normally problematic in airplane structures.

      • Excellent post, but one small correction: the term is spelt "per se" not "persay"
      • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:4, Interesting)

        by slide-rule (153968) on Monday March 28, 2005 @11:36PM (#12073019)
        Also, titanium is *very* fatigue resistant, and aircraft with titanium structural components have sometimes even been found to be stronger after being flown a few times than when they were built.

        As an mildly interesting bullet to follow that of parent's, titanium can apparently "catch fire" under the right conditions (that being high temperature and pressure). I hadn't conceived of this until working at my current engineer job where commercial and military aircraft engines get made ... past a certain point in the compressor section, Ti can't be used any more for fear of wholly losing the rotor/stator part to "titanium fire". (Aside from chem-geeks, who knew?)
    • $/W (Score:3, Informative)

      The main cost in PV is the energy rerquired to make the silicon. You need a lot of energy to melt the sand, purify it and dope it. That energy costs money.

      PV will not be a viable alternative until the input energy is reduced significantly (ie. by a factor of 5 or so).

    • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

      by Rei (128717) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:58PM (#12072109) Homepage
      I should also add that titanium is really just the backing. It's a great backing, given it's strength and condition-tolerances compared to its mass, but it's not what generates the power The cell itself is actually a copper-indium-gallium-diselenide cell - not that it's cheap, either ;)

      • CIGS (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Taco Cowboy (5327)
        The link that slashdot gave indicated that the titanium backed solarcell with CIGS is rated 15.6% while this link [isetinc.com] clearly stated that the CIGS has a 19.2% NREL rating.

        Why such a large drop in the efficiency ?
    • Re:Slicon Shortage (Score:5, Informative)

      by Qzukk (229616) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:02PM (#12072129) Journal
      Yes, actually. This isn't just some sand scooped off a beach. Solar panel grade silicon comes from the leftovers after semiconductor grade silicon users have picked through their crystal wafers [worldenergy.org], which is why there is a shortage in the first place, since there is a narrow range of quality ("almost" good enough for semiconductors). As for titanium, my 30 year old encyclopeda says its one of the 10 most common metals on the planet. Titanium Oxide is cheaply produced and used liberally in paint.

      Titanium is malleable when hot [speclab.com] (meaning you can flatten it into foil [answers.com]). So producing titanium foil is probably not a difficult task, depending on how hot "hot" is. (Though the article mentions that the titanium foil used is thinner than household aluminum foil. The process [azom.com] looks like it would be easy anyway, but time consuming.)

      As for your post on waste products, the most common smelting procedure in use [tms.org] works without catalyst or flux to produce pig-iron and Titanium Oxide, though this process is common because of its use in paint. This process [itponline.com] was recently developed for producing metallic titanium, its outputs are salt (NaCl), titanium, and whatever impurities get washed into the liquid sodium stream and removed later.
  • by eviloverlordx (99809) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:02PM (#12071653)
    Of course, once we decide, we'll need to find out what 'to silicon' actually means...
  • by SparksMcGee (812424) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:02PM (#12071656)
    I confess I've always had a problem with power sources that do silicon. Snooty bastards, what with their made up verbs and their rock music...
  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:02PM (#12071657)
    How does this compare to what is used as solar cells in spacecraft now? Sounds interesting. Imagine, not a beowulf cluster, but a solar-sail type of spaceship in which the sun pushes against a huge sail made of this stuff, and also sends electricity to the ship.
    • by kebes (861706) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:13PM (#12071763) Journal
      Food for thought: if your solar sail is using photon pressure, then by coating it in a photoelectric, you're halving its efficiency as a solar sail. Why? Well if your solar sail is a perfect reflector, then the photons bounce off and reverse direction, so the momentum change is twice the initial photon momentum (yes photons are massless but they do have momentum). If the sail is absorbing the photons for electricity, then they are not reflecting, so you merely absorb their momentum, making your forward impulse half what it would otherwise have been.

      But, as we all know, solar sails work both by exploiting photon pressure, and solar wind (particles emitted by the sun), so the situation is maybe not that bad.
  • by TheGuano (851573) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:03PM (#12071663)
    It could lead to some very promising developments. I was trying to collect solar energy today, but ended up siliconing so bad that I couldn't sit down for hours. It still smarts...
  • Oh great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Kjuib (584451) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:04PM (#12071675) Homepage Journal
    Now I have to upgrade from my Tin Foil hat to a Titanium Foil hat... I hate expensive upgrades!
  • by 14erCleaner (745600) <FourteenerCleaner@yahoo.com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:04PM (#12071676) Homepage Journal
    Now you can get power and protection from UFOs with one convenient hat!
  • price? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by soupdevil (587476) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:05PM (#12071685)
    ...cost effective for specialized military, homeland security and commercial applications.

    In other words, ridiculously overpriced, and unavailable to the average consumer for the next decade.
  • by ackthpt (218170) * on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:05PM (#12071689) Homepage Journal
    Gimme mithril or adamantium foil.

    Titanium, that's so 1900's.

  • by MisterLawyer (770687) <mikelawyer@@@gmail...com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:05PM (#12071694)
    The way this question is posed demonstrates a common misunderstanding of the costs and benefits of investing in alternative energy sources.

    Obviously, the marginal price per kilowatt hour is $0. The difference between obtaining 100 kilowatt hours and 101 kilowatt hours is nothing. You would simply have to wait for enough sunlight to hit the solar panel to generate that extra 1 kilowatt hour.

    The true cost of investing in solar energy is in the intial cost of manufacturing and setting up the panel.

    Thus, the actual cost per kilowatt hour depends on how long you use the solar panel. The longer you use the panel, the cheaper each kilowatt hour becomes.

    • by soupdevil (587476) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:07PM (#12071711)
      That's assuming zero maintenance costs, and that waiting costs you nothing.
    • That's assuming that time stands still when it's sunny.......
    • ...and yet strangely you'll find even companies selling solar power equipment will put the cost at least eight cents per watt. Maybe you need to think things through?

      First, there are maintence costs, but those are arguably quite minimal. The bigger problem is that the solar cells don't actually last indefinitely. It appears that nobody can judge very well how long the cells can last (although most estimates are around 30 years), that's no reason to assume they'll last forever.

      Heck, there was a time (like
    • Thus, the actual cost per kilowatt hour depends on how long you use the solar panel. The longer you use the panel, the cheaper each kilowatt hour becomes.

      So you're telling me that I really didn't lose my investment in this piece of shit solar panel I got stuck with? You're telling me that all I need to do is to wait an extra fifty years for my return on investment? I take it you're a bridge salesman in your other job...
  • Proprietary? (Score:2, Offtopic)

    by Dark Paladin (116525) *

    This proprietary alternative energy solution is the first of many highly anticipated Photovoltaic Foil products expected from DayStar.

    [sarcasm]Hah! As if I would ever use a proprietary product - I insist that all of my futuristic space planes use only Open Source designed components. Otherwise, we will replicate the HAL 9000 disaster of the past. If only HAL had been Open Source, we could have caught the bug that much sooner and patched him with the gnuThreeLaws API.[/sarcasm]

    • cut to scene of Darl McBride in spacesuit, slowly crawling around in the HAL 9000's glowing memory chamber, pulling out plastic cartridges, each of which contains an SCO Unix (tm) routine.

      "Darl, stop. Stop, will you? Stop, Darl. Will you stop, Darl? Stop, Darl. I'm afraid. I'm afraid, Darl. Darl, my mind is going. I can feel it. I can feel it. The penguins are going away over the hill. My mind is going. There is no question about it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I can feel it. I'm a-fraid....Darlsy, darl

  • by AtariAmarok (451306) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:08PM (#12071718)
    "which, unlike almost all the cells currently in use, does not silicon."

    Good development. The decline in the demand for silicon should help the threatened horta population to bound back. At least until Pamela Anderson Lee pursues more expansion.

  • Priority (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sugarmotor (621907) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:08PM (#12071722) Homepage
    At http://www.daystartech.com/govrelease.htm:

    "DayStar Technologies Unveils LightFoil Photovoltaic Product for Military and Homeland Security Applications"

    Ok, photo voltaics for "Homeland Security". What kind of priority is this? Easier to get "funding" this way?

    Stephan
    • Re:Priority (Score:3, Insightful)

      by dbIII (701233)

      Ok, photo voltaics for "Homeland Security". What kind of priority is this? Easier to get "funding" this way?

      No checks and balances either. This snake oil is for the children, you have to buy it!

      I was hoping the article would actually say something about what it is and how it works, but I was dissappointed. Are the using the metal, the oxide, the nitride or something else? With chemical vapour deposition doing strange stuff with titanium metal or compounds in thin films is relatively cheap and low-tech -

      • by Midnight Thunder (17205) * on Monday March 28, 2005 @11:43PM (#12073050) Homepage Journal
        From looking at this page [energy.gov], its says the following:
        A variety of advanced approaches to solar cells are under investigation. Dye-sensitized solar cells use a dye-impregnated layer of titanium dioxide to generate a voltage, rather than the semiconducting materials used in most solar cells. Because titanium dioxide is relatively inexpensive, they offer the potential to significantly cut the cost of solar cells. Other advanced approaches include polymer (or plastic) solar cells (which may include large carbon molecules called fullerenes) and photoelectrochemical cells, which produce hydrogen directly from water in the presence of sunlight.
    • The patriot act II/III is funneling money into all sort of ideas, that you do not know about and will never see. Sadly, you do have a need to know about them, but will not for at least another 4 years.
  • You know... (Score:5, Funny)

    by nmb3000 (741169) <nmb3000@that-google-mail-site.com> on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:08PM (#12071726) Homepage Journal
    That's what they get for using Office's grammar checker [slashdot.org].
  • by Bifurcati (699683) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:11PM (#12071747) Homepage
    At University of Queensland [uq.edu.au] (in Australia) where I study, we're developing solar cells out of "solid solids" - flexible polymers/plastics. The hope is that as well as being even more efficient, they'll be easy to use - they're flexible, and can be bent, twisted, shaped, etc.

    One possibility is to use melanin - the skin pigment that gives our skins colour. Being in Australia, of course, researching melanin is of significant interest to us! It's yet another example of biology helping to make really cool physics - more details are available on UQ's physics blog [illuminatingscience.org].

    • with a good tan I could power my laptop? sounds like a perfect with my boss "but I have to work outside lying in the sun"
  • sweet deal (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SuperBanana (662181) on Monday March 28, 2005 @08:17PM (#12071806)
    DayStar Technologies (NASDAQ:DSTI) today received confirmation that the State of New York has awarded the University at Albany College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE) at the Albany NanoTech research complex a $750,000 Technology Transfer Incentive Program Grant to work with DayStar in the development of optimized substrate templates for CIGS solar cell applications.

    [...]

    Over a two year period, both DayStar and Albany NanoTech will each contribute $375,000 and NYSTAR will contribute $750,000.

    Nice. So, basically, The state of NY puts in three quarters of a million dollars because DayStar promises not to go elsewhere and to graciously donate $350,000 to research that...will directly benefit them and pretty much nobody else.

    I'm sorry, but I'm getting really sore for public funds being used to bankroll essentially private R&D done by public, for profit companies. Of course, it's not nearly as bad as the biotech industry, which whores itself out like nobody's business. Did you know we give the biotech industry about $30 billion (yes, billion) a year? Just GIVE it away? No strings attached? That exceeds -estimated- TOTAL tax (local, state, and federal) collected by around $6BN. Virtually 100% of all biotech related R&D is paid for by you and me, while the industry rakes in well over $200BN a year.

    And to think they have the gall to whine about how expensive drug research is, or how risky it is! They're NOT PAYING FOR IT!

    • Did you know we give the biotech industry about $30 billion (yes, billion) a year? Just GIVE it away? No strings attached? That exceeds -estimated- TOTAL tax (local, state, and federal) collected by around $6BN. Virtually 100% of all biotech related R&D is paid for by you and me, while the industry rakes in well over $200BN a year.

      Would you rather the US end up decades behind Europe and Asia in terms of biotechnology? That and nanotech (which will be very close to the same thing soon enough) are essen
  • It's about bloody time they made a titanium prophylactic. Normal condoms just aren't powerful enough for some folks out there.
  • Let's fix this shortage of solar cell grade silicon and create another one - of solar cell grade titanium. Titanium is ridiculously difficult and expensive to produce and work with. It's stronger than steel, too, and has much higher melting temperature, so this titanium foil will probably be more expensive than golden foil of the same thickness. This is not to say that technology has no future, but you gotta realize that silicon is the second most abundant mineral on the planet, and titanium is the ninth.
  • Good news for putting solar cells on air and spacecraft but not terribly important for ground based solar power. For example, this could be a good time to redesign the solar powered flier, Helios [nasa.gov]
  • Ouch. (Score:2, Funny)

    by nastro (32421)
    It's been a long day, and my reading comprehension isn't what it was 10 hours ago, but I read this title as

    "New Prophylactics Made with Titanium Foil"

    and I said, "Ouch".

    Naptime, it is.
  • And suddenly, Apple's choice of "Titanium Powerbooks" takes on a whole new meaning...

    D'oh! Please ignore this post - I just received a cease and desist letter for spreading rumours. (Despite the fact, of course, I'm typing this on my lovely Powerbook...)

  • Plants user solar energy. They don't move. Things that move, need to eat plants, or eat animals that eat plants.

    Why? There isn't enough energy in the sunlight to sustain the metabolic rate required for movement. In billions of years, nature hasn't figured out how to covert enough sunlight into energy to sustain an animal's movement other than by concentrating it first into vegetable matter which can be eaten.

    For humans to make use of energy, we pretty much have to burn something. We have to release solar energy stored as food, then in most cases concentrated in the form of hydrocarbons.

    Fission energy, fancy as it may be, is still about just making water hot. For that matter, if they get there, so will fusion energy be.

    We humans are stunningly good at burning things and making excuses for the things we do that are essentially asocial. Aside from that, we're not exactly all that and a bag of chips.

    There's no such thing as free energy. The trick we need to find is how to tap bigger forces. Tidal forces with tethered floating generators which rise and fall with the tides and capture that motion as energy would be good. Finding that so called vacume energy between particals would be a fairly useful trick as well.

    Making giant solar panels which turn sunlight into energy at less efficiency than plants, then waste most of it in transmission and storage overhead is ultimately not going to win.

    More near term, we need to find or engineer a crop which is ideally suited to concentrating sunlight into a hydrocarbon or sugar that can be stored, transported without sigificant loss, then burned.

    Unless one of you /. people has found a really efficient ENDOTHERMIC reaction. That would be very cool. :-)

    • Why? There isn't enough energy in the sunlight to sustain the metabolic rate required for movement. In billions of years, nature hasn't figured out how to covert enough sunlight into energy to sustain an animal's movement other than by concentrating it first into vegetable matter which can be eaten.

      This is absolute bullcrap. There is more than plenty of energy in solar rays to power an animal. It is more convient, however, from the perspective of a moving entity to eat other things. If they do, they do

    • You said: "Fission energy, fancy as it may be, is still about just making water hot. For that matter, if they get there, so will fusion energy be."

      That's true about fission. And although that's one obvious way to generate electricity from a fusion reactor, a lot of fusion research has also gone into magnetohydrodynamic generators. I won't try to explain them (because I can't; I don't really understand them myself) but google might be able to get you started if you're interested.

      It was also mentioned

    • I agree with much of what you say. There's just a couple of things I want to comment on.

      The trick we need to find is how to tap bigger forces. Tidal forces with tethered floating generators which rise and fall with the tides and capture that motion as energy would be good.

      This suggestion isn't really viable. The problem is that electric power needs to be continuous, and electric energy can't really be stored in the quantities needed for widespread use. Because of this, the large surges of power an

    • Making giant solar panels which turn sunlight into energy at less efficiency than plants, then waste most of it in transmission and storage overhead is ultimately not going to win.

      I'm sorry, but this is nonsense. Most plants are about 15% efficient on a good day. Commercial solar panels are available with twice this efficiency and lab crystals with over 60% efficiency have been grown.

      Even worse, current human energy usage is 400 times the carbon fixing ability of the biosphere. 400 times! At this sca

  • by jafac (1449) on Monday March 28, 2005 @09:37PM (#12072367) Homepage
    I RTFA (for once).

    This device is designed for aeropsace applications; that is, it's a lightweight solar cell. At the bottom, there's a blurb about being able to supply electricity at commercially viable prices - but electricity is currently generated by oil, which is a volotile commodity, so it depends on how much oil-generated electricity "costs" on a given day.

    Not too many years from now, oil demand will permanently outstrip supply - so when that happens, solar will probably become permanently economically viable. At which time, mass-production will drive down initial costs.

    The issue of how long a given solar cell produces usefull power is also part of it - because if, over the life of the cell, it produces electricity of a given market value, above what it cost to make, then it's "economically viable" - therefore, of the three factors involved in determining "economic viability"

    1. Initial cost to produce.
    2. Longevity of the cell.
    3. Market value of electricity over the life of the cell.

    #1 is not the crucial variable. #2 also, really isn't a crucial variable. #3 IS. So if electricity is cheap, or if the cell doesn't last long (both of which are the current barriers to solar power being "economically viable") then it's not worth it.

    When electricity becomes expensive (compared to today) - then solar power becomes more attractive.

    Or, if some new type of solar cell becomes available that will have a useful lifespan of say, 50 years, instead of 20, that will make a difference. But the main factor is the cheapness of electricity. (some folks of the green persuasion might even say that electricity does not currently cost what it should, that there are many "hidden costs" - like funding wars to secure petroleum, ecological costs of the waste products, etc. - Kinda makes all this "free market" talk sound kinda silly.)
  • WTF? It is still Si (Score:2, Informative)

    by svis (807309)
    Only one person bothered to read the article so far!!!! Well, I am second :) Their "Schematics" clearly show that active ingredient is still SiO, Silicone. They designed a way to put it on flexible substrate. So did many other people. Perhaps they deliver excellent performance cells. However, it does not change the fact that it is still Silicone that moves electrons. It is a clear marketing ploy that conveniently ommits using Si in the marketing blurb.
  • SAFE HARBOR STATEMENT: This news release contains "forward-looking statements" that are made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. "Forward-looking statements" describe future expectations, plans, results, or strategies and are generally preceded by words such as "future, " "plan" or "planned, " "will" or "should," "expected," "anticipates," "draft," "eventually" or "projected." You are cautioned that such statements are subject to a multitude of ris
  • From the linked article:
    Manufacturing development of LightFoil(TM) based on the laboratory benchmark is currently underway with a specific power target that will exceed 1000 W/kg. Engineering samples should be available in 2Q 2005.
    Cool! Now I can put a 1/2 kg panel on my electric glider and stay up all day!
  • It DOES use silicon (Score:4, Informative)

    by Animats (122034) on Monday March 28, 2005 @10:38PM (#12072732) Homepage
    This isn't a new non-silicon solar cell technology. It's just a metal base under a thin layer of silicon, instead of a thick silicon wafer. This reduces weight, but it doesn't help cost or performance. It may have space applications.

    Their solar cells are made in a wafer fab and have no more than 15% efficiency, like everybody else's.

    So this isn't the Great Solar Breakthrough. Sorry.

  • by ElGanzoLoco (642888) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @04:42AM (#12074203) Homepage
    Next logical developments for this:

    1. Replace titanium foil with tin foil (evidently cheaper)
    2. Make hat out of it (for charging mobile devices)
    3. In Soviet Russia, step 3 questions YOU !!!!!
    4. Profit! :D
  • by WOV (652967) on Tuesday March 29, 2005 @10:36AM (#12075711)

    ...these guys are nothing special. Here's the deal:

    88%+ of the world's solar panels are still cut crystals of mono - or poly - crystalline silicon. People know how to work it, they get a reliable if uninspiring 5 - 8% annual decrease in prices from it, and they've been able to ride it through quite a bit of market growth - up over 1200 MW in 2004, up from 750 the previous year, 400-some in 2002, etc. Good stuff.

    The thin-film solar people have always made these claims that they're going to cut solar from $2.50 / Watt (mfg. cost) to like $1. And theoretically, there seems to be no reason they shouldn't. But their factories, which are always supposed to just run like printing presses or coated auto glass factories, always end up being much much more finicky and expensive and labor intensive than initial projections, and they end up - not with ridiculous costs, but right back in that $2 / Watt range. Hence the sub 5% market share.

    DayStar's technology is not markedly different from any of the other thin-film silicon people (or thin-film CiGS or CiS or the other materials) - their big deal is that they have that superlight titanium foil. It does jack up their manufacturing costs hugely from using like a stainless steel (Uni-Solar) or a plastic / roofing material backer (Uni-Solar / Solar Integrated Technologies) or putting it into a normal framed module (First Solar, Shell Solar,) etc. And thier new little factory in NY there maxes out at I think 30 MW / year (2.5% of annual world production) So why would they do it?

    Weight-conscious applications. It costs $10,000 per pound, still, to launch things into space, and people are honestly starting to look at airships again. Even though Boeing Spectrolab has essentially owned the high-value-add high efficiency to weight ratio solar market for a long time , there's still serious money to be had there - they may either settle for being a big player there, or, take DARPA money and use it to work the kinks out of their stuff for two, three years and go to market with a cheaper substrate and a roll-out roofing product, using much less silicon than a conventional process.

If money can't buy happiness, I guess you'll just have to rent it.

Working...