The direct conversion of sunlight to electricity is looking to become economically competitive with traditional burning-hot-stuff electricity within the next ten or fifteen years. Every time something happens to shorten that period of time, we do a little dance here at EcoGeek. No, we aren’t going to tell you about the dance…we’re going to tell you about Holographic Solar photovoltaics.
It’s actually kinda difficult to get a photovoltaic cell to absorb a wide wavelength of light. While some work is being done to increase the spectrum of light PVs can absorb (even into the infrared range) Prism Solar Technologies is splitting sunlight and concentrating specific wavelengths onto a variety of cells designed to collect those specific wavelengths.
In their most recent trial, the holographic concentrators boosted the efficiency per square inch of photo-cell by 25%. Excellent because the concentrators are cheaper than the silicon solar cells, and also because they’re less environmentally costly to create. If the cost of the concetrators drops enough, we could see economicall competitive solar panels (that you can see through most of) even sooner.)