Professor Andrew Blakers, director of the Centre for Sustainable Energy Systems at the Australian National University, says ‘sliver technology’ could reduce the price of solar power by 60% and is over 20% efficient.
The system works by taking a standard solar cell about 1 millimetre thick and cutting it into tiny slices that are just 120 micrometres wide.
“Imagine a standard solar cell is a loaf of bread. When you put it out in the sun it generates energy based on its surface area,” Blakers says.
“Now imagine you cut that loaf up into slices and lay them horizontally. You get a lot more surface area.”
This technique allows researchers to use much smaller amounts of expensive silicon to generate the same amount of electricity. This can also keep manufacturing costs down, as all the processing steps normally carried out on solar cells are done while the slices are still in the ‘loaf’.
“We’re looking at major reductions in the total cost without the need for major scientific breakthroughs,” Blakers says.
Further developments would be needed, such as figuring out how to cut thinner slivers, he says.