Spherical Solar Cells – doubling the power output of flat PV panels!



Solar panels are highly sensitive to what you might call ‘sub-optimal’ conditions…wrong angle of the sun, scattered sunlight, dust & sand, too much heat – all these things diminish the panels ability to generate power. But now a research team reckon they’ve overcome all those problems by creating a spherical version of the common solar PV panel. So, is this a practical proposition for the real world?

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Sphelar Power

43 comments

  1. Um… this is dum. A "spherical" cell? The efficiency per surface of the cell is numbers of times lesser… That's why they use "ground surface" instead. If it was a glass lens or something that gathered light from many directions and shined it on a flat cell in the center, then maybe that could make an ounce of sense…

  2. I find it funny that you think you are a creative person.

    You think just like all the climate change obsessed electro heads.

    Here is a clue. Electric cars will not save the world. Electric cars are not zero emissions , they just move the exhaust from the tail pipe to the smoke stack.

    I could go on and on with things like this.

    All the things you go on and on about are symptoms not causes.

    If you want to fix the problem you must fix the root cause.

    What is the root cause?

    Well that is easy too many people.

    The earth can not support 8,000.000.000 people.

  3. What about making solar cells from clusters of silicon fibers, bundled so that their cross-sectioned ends face toward the sun? Those ends might be polished flat, or possibly domed hemispherical. In either case, the idea would be to use the total internal reflection (TIR) of each fiber to trap 100% of incident photons. Rounded or domed ends might prove better at accessing photons approaching at an angle.

  4. you know this guy , very old, like some millions of years ago invented this thing called "tree"… I think that shape is the one that is working, we should just "copy" …

  5. Thinking about the complexity of construction to also capture scattered light wouldn’t a simpler solution be to make a double sided flat panel and put a reflector below it. I wonder how that would stack up against a tracking system.

  6. TI did this back in the early 90`s when my ex worked there. Dirty silicon spheres on heavy aluminum foil.
    Seems like they were projecting $10 per square foot but it has been a while.
    Figured it must have been too good because it just disappeared after it was announced internally.

  7. Easier to clean. Doubtful. Desert dust and sand are electrostatically charged, become damp overnight as temp falls and attach to any and every surface requiring wiping off.

  8. First, I don't consider this an innovation. It's just a choice of configuration, out of essentially an infiniite set of possibilities.

    There are probably situations where this might convey an advantage. Yes, if you're land-constrained, it can be an advantage to get reflected sunlight from the rear, in addition to the front. But in general, if you want the most output per unit of cell area, you're best off pointing a flat panel directly sunward.

  9. this can be a game changer for places where it snows. might even be able to generate a small amount pf power at night.

  10. I always thought missing the fly with the rolled up news paper was because of air pressure and the microscopic hairs on the fly….

  11. Nope. Concentrated Photovoltaics is the way to go: A Fresnel-lens focuses sunlight on a solarcell 1/100 the size of the lens.

  12. Corrugated panels have long since been studied by MIT.
    They're better, but cost prohibitive. A cheaper way to make them, and layering different types of photo cells, might make much better panels.
    So, sphere, probably not, but something that looks like egg crate foam?

  13. A tree is not a perfect solar collector because most of it doesn't face the sun at any one time. It does a good job though because it builds a whole lot of extra surface allowing it to face in all directions at the same time. It can afford it, we cannot. Keep in mind that although a solar sphere will collect more energy than a flat immovable plate of the same 2D area, there is much extra cost involved in the extra surface never mind the increased difficulties & therefore cost of manufacture. You have to supply 4 times as much solar collecting surface to do this. The cost of solar material is always the issue. Even if you assist the surface with reflectors on the ground say, such reflectors are not free either and also must be kept relatively clean. As the common saying goes, there ain't no free lunch. Good ideas are not good enough if they are not also economical. Just because something can be done does not in the least imply that it will be worthwhile.

    Perhaps what should be looked at more intensively is how to get a solar panel to face the sun, or nearly so, without expensive complications. It does not have to be even very good to be a lot better than stationary panels. It comes to mind that the heat expansion of wax, as used to passively drive various valves such us in a car thermostat, might also be used to move levers and reorient the panel. They could perhaps be operated with the heat of the sun itself which is always more intense at right angles to the solar panel.

  14. I think the new solar pv inks and films which can be applied onto all sorts of shapes and structures offer much greater cost benefit potential than this over-engineered solution

  15. Of the light that reaches Earth’s surface, infrared radiation makes up 49.4% of while visible light provides 42.3%. Ultraviolet radiation makes up just over 8% of the total solar radiation. The real breakthrough would be the mass production of photovoltaics that use full Sun's spectrum, although better shape design is not a bad idea also.
    Not to mention that infrared radiation may last long after the twilight.

  16. Gah I've been wondering about this for a long time!! I wondered if you could make a flat panel of little round mini cells

  17. The authors of the study use the term “subsidy” carelessly. Call it “implied subsidy” perhaps, but even then it is “implied” only if you accept their system of accounting, and no government does, so let’s not try to fool people into the accepting the notion that governments are “subsidizing fossil fuels” to prop up a fading industry. Pricing of fuels is largely determined by market forces, and to a smaller degree by subsidies, taxes and trade restrictions— the levers governments have at their disposal. To suggest that fossil fuel prices are “subsidized” to the degree the report claims is not a realistic or helpful observation.

  18. Sorry, this is utter nonsense.

    The requirements of a fly’s vision are NOT the same as energy gathering.

    The Sunflower would be a better comparison…

    …and they are a tracking flat surface.

  19. Sorry but this adds up to … nothing. If you have a flat solar panel of, say 1 m squared; when you fold it, no matter how you do it, it will produce less solar energy. It does not produce more – it can't – Just think. At least half of it is not facing the Sun, and then other half is 80% sub-optimal.
    For a sphere with the same surface area, those cells on the shaded side, catching a few stray reflected rays off the sand, would have caught much much more power when they were turned around facing the Sun.
    Just have a think.

  20. So how did they protect these pingpong ball size solar cells??? With a plate of glass that reflects light at a angle…

  21. It's simple. Solar cells produce the most energy when in direct sunlight and facing the Sun directly. Placing the panels on a sphere decreases the area illuminated directly, so if going by surface area, it's impossible to have better output than ordinary panels. Sphere gets less direct sunlight so it heats up less. This is the only thing going for it, the planar panels could really use a simple aluminium radiator at the back side to dissipate heat more efficiently – why are we not funding that thing?

  22. What if the panels were a little less complex / costly to make, so instead of spheres they were half cylinder shaped and ran the full length of a typical panel AND water was run down the middle of each cylinder to keep them cool and more efficient. The warm water can then be fed into the water heater.

  23. Love the concept for industrial applications., it has some stiff competition though if they try & compete with the residential usage.
    A lot of new houses are built with solar panels acting as the main waterproof layer instead of installing roofing tiles.
    It's also easier to ship flat panels in bulk.

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