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Monday, September 12, 2011


Solar power is a viable alternative to fossil fuels and some alternative energy sources, as it gives off no carbon dioxide waste and uses the natural energy from our sun to generate electricity. After the lifetime of the panel, the materials that were used to make it could be recycled as no material is used in the energy generating process. There is also a lot of room for solar power to be used in the development of 3rd world economies, as it is extremely cost effective in the long run.
Solar panels have always been thought to be very expensive as it used to be made only from the purest silicon. Solar power has in many ways been eliminated as a viable option as a result of its high manufacturing costs. But a recent breakthrough in the hunt to find an alternative to silicon has dramatically decreased the price of solar power, and also increased it’s effectiveness. This achievement came from South Africa’s own Professor Vivian Alberts from the Johannesburg University and his team of physicists, who have formulated a new procedure of making solar panels using copper-indium-gallium-diselenide (CIGS).
The production of CIGS solar panels is very complex and any slight deviation from the purest, high-quality elements can result in an ineffective solar cell.
1. Three metals: copper (Cu), gallium (Ga), and indium (In), have to be formed in an extremely pure alloy.
2. Next, the alloy that was formed needs to be converted into an equally pure semiconductor. This is done by adding selenium (Se)into the alloy. This creates a completely new crystal structure forming the CIGS layer of the cell.
3. Then a buffer layer of other semi-conductors are laid carefully on the CIGS layer.
4. The cell is then finished off by attaching conductive electrical contacts (usually molybdenum) on either side
Solar power is one of the most renewable ways of energy production. The sun as the energy source is, at least in the foreseeable future, endless and will keep providing us with power. There is no way for us to use up the sun and we don’t even have to replenish it. Therefore solar power is definitely a renewable means of energy production.
The use of CIGS in the productions of solar panels as an alternative to silicon, gas been undergoing research since 1974, but scientists struggled to find reliable, repeatable, commercially affordable processes to produce this type of solar panel. Professor Alberts revolutionised this industry in inventing an entirely new procedure based on the way that the atoms behave from the beginning to the end of the process. His procedure is going to be implemented in the first full-scale CGIS production plant that uses this procedure, currently being built in Germany by IFE Solar Systems a company that has invested R500-million in this South African invention.
· The sun’s energy is free to use, which makes the process cheaper.
· The process is completely non-polluting.
· Can be used in a wide variety of locations the world over. Wherever there is sun.
· Cost of the panels and equipment is expensive. This will, however, become cheaper in time.
· Can only work when the sun is available; therefore weather dependant.
South Africa is at the forefront of developing new CIGS technology (see above). The country does not however make enough use of its own technology. This is due in part to the costs involved but with price decreasing there is great possibility for solar panels to be installed throughout the country.
Less than one micrometer of CIGS in the form of a thin film absorbs more than 99% incident solar energy, compared to the 350 micrometers of silicon to absorb the same amount. CIGS is therefore very effective, as it can be used in a flexible form, making the possibilities for its use in the production of other products endless.
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