From the earliest, most primitive form of “solar panels,” plants, to the contemporary quantum dot solar cells, the harvesting of energy provided by our greatest resource, the sun, has evolved tremendously. Throughout this blog, we have covered quite a bit. We talked about the photovoltaic effect, the premise for the chemistry behind solar panels, semiconductors, especially silicon the most common material for solar panels, solar cell efficiency (link 3rd post), and even some of the cutting edge solar cell research happening right now including perovskites (link 4th post)and quantum dot solar cells (link 5th post).
Due to the nature of solar technology, the role of chemists is irreplaceable. Chemists must design new dyes, develop materials for better electron transport, and they must also characterise each new material to ensure that the energy of the electron ‘fits in’ with the other materials – the rest of the solar cell. Just like a car engine, if one part doesn’t fit, the whole thing doesn’t work. In this way, chemists, along with physicists and engineers have to work together to find the best materials which fit together to ensure that the solar cell is working as best as possible.
Can solar power change the world? For some communities in developing countries, it already has. Scientists must continue to work with businesses, economists, architects, designers and a whole host of other professions to make sure that solar cells are practical, cost effective and appealing. Solar cells will continue to make a large contribution to reducing the world’s dependency on fossil fuels, closing the poverty gap and changing the world. In one hour, more sunlight falls on the earth then is used by the entire population of our planet in a year. It is the most readily available renewable source of energy we have access to, and it is up to us to utilize it the best way possible.
So we leave you with a deeper understanding of the mechanisms of a photovoltaic cell, the variety of solar panels, and this awesome (at least we think it is) TED Talk by Joe Jordan, a NASA Researcher about “The Solar Window of Opportunity.”