Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Solar panel made with ion cannon is cheap enough to challenge fossil fuels | ExtremeTech

Twin Creeks' Hyperion particle accelerator wafer machine thing 

Twin Creeks, a solar power startup that emerged from hiding today, has developed a way of creating photovoltaic cells that are half the price of today’s cheapest cells, and thus within reach of challenging the fossil fuel hegemony. The best bit: Twin Creeks’ photovoltaic cells are created using a hydrogen ion particle accelerator.

3-millimeter-thick silicon wafers are placed around the outside edge of the big, spoked wheel. A particle accelerator bombards these wafers with hydrogen ions, and with exacting control of the voltage of the accelerator, the hydrogen ions accumulate precisely 20 micrometers from the surface of each wafer. A robotic arm then transports the wafers to a furnace where the ions expand into hydrogen gas, which cause the 20-micrometer-thick layer to shear off. A metal backing is applied to make it less fragile (and highly flexible, as you see on the right), and the remaining silicon wafer is taken back to the particle accelerator for another dose of ions. At a tenth of the thickness and with considerably less wastage, it’s easy to see how Twin Creeks can halve the cost of solar cells.

it is promising a cost of around 40 cents per watt, about half the cost of panels currently coming out of China (where the vast majority of solar panels are made). At that price, solar power begins to encroach on standard, mostly-hydrocarbon-derived grid power — but, of course, we still need to create batteries that can store solar power over night. Still, one step at a time.

More @ ExtremeTech

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