According to a recent report by Researchmoz.us, the photovoltaics (PV) boom and bust has rebooted efforts to commercialize the next generation of materials platforms for solar panels. There has recently been a resurgence of the solar panel industry, but many of the surviving firms are Chinese companies making conventional crystalline silicon (c-Si) panels. Also surviving is First Solar, with its stable and ongoing production of cadmium telluride (CdTe).
With the solar panel industry now back on track, however, the search is on once more for materials platforms that improve the conversion efficiency of solar panels, both now and in the future. Some of these are close at hand, such as novel approaches to doping silicon panels.
Meanwhile, the thin-film PV sector is looking for its next success after CdTe. This could be copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), but several other complex materials are being developed for next-generation, thin-film solar that are now beginning to receive serious commercial attention.
According to the report, the solar industry is beginning to think out of the box with a slew of entirely new nanomaterials such as quantum dots, nanowires, nanotubes and graphene. The commercialization of these materials for solar applications lies a few years off. But they will eventually offer radical new ways to boost the performance of the absorber, photoactive and electrode layers in next-generation solar panels.