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3D solar cell prototype underway in California

Solar3D Inc is currently producing a proof-of-concept prototype of its 3-dimensional (3D) solar photovoltaic (PV) cell technology at the University of California, Santa Barbara's Nanofabrication Facility.

By Kari Williamson

Inspired by light management techniques used in fibre optic devices, the company’s solar cell technology utilises a 3D design to trap sunlight inside micro-photovoltaic structures where photons bounce around until they are converted into electrons.

Solar3D believes that its solar cell design can produce 200% the power output of current silicon solar cells.

The proof-of-concept prototype is being fabricated on silicon, and is scheduled to be completed by late June or early July.

The 3D solar cell prototype will allow the company’s technology team to determine the optimal conditions for fabrication. A second prototype will then be built to maximise performance and to prepare the manufacturing facilities for a 50,000-unit pilot run which will follow.

Solar3D's analysis indicates that a typical 17% efficient solar cell performs more like a 5% efficient cell when light is shining 20° from the side, such as during the morning or evening hours.

Due to a wide angle light collection feature, the company estimates that its Solar3D cell can maintain a 25% efficiency for a longer period of time, over the course of a day and year – translating into into 200% more power than conventional solar cells, and halving the system payback period.

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