The Tradeoff in Nanotech for Photovoltaics

It seems when nanotech is applied to photovoltaics it can either boost their efficiency to new heights or it can cheapen their manufacturing process. But it never seems to provide a solution to both of these. It’s always a tradeoff: increased efficiency but difficult manufacturing processes or a cheaper production process but less efficiency.

So, which way do we go? Do we follow the more efficient solutions and see if we can’t make the manufacturing process for them cheaper? Or do we follow the cheaper manufacturing process and see if we can’t make them more efficient?

The respective research mentioned above from Georgia Tech and Argonne National Laboratory will proceed in finding solutions to both directions, and there will come a point where an investor of some sort or another will take up the baton and see about commercializing a product based on which shows the most promise. Or so it’s supposed to go.

The problem of late is that no one is picking up the baton. The history of failed IPOs in nanotech and energy and the travails of companies attempting to bring nanotech solutions to the photovoltaic marketplace may have scared investors away. Or maybe there are other reasons.

But in any case Richard Jones over at his Soft Machines blog has made it pretty clear why we need to apply nanotechnology to creating a new solar economy…and sooner rather than later.



IEEE Spectrum’s nanotechnology blog, featuring news and analysis about the development, applications, and future of science and technology at the nanoscale.

Dexter Johnson
Madrid, Spain
Rachel Courtland
Associate Editor, IEEE Spectrum
New York, NY