The Tradeoff in Nanotech for Photovoltaics

We either get improved efficiency or cheaper production processes from nanotech used for photovoltaics but never both of them together

1 min read

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.

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Two Startups Are Bringing Fiber to the Processor

Avicena’s blue microLEDs are the dark horse in a race with Ayar Labs’ laser-based system

5 min read
Diffuse blue light shines from a patterned surface through a ring. A blue cable leads away from it.

Avicena’s microLED chiplets could one day link all the CPUs in a computer cluster together.

Avicena

If a CPU in Seoul sends a byte of data to a processor in Prague, the information covers most of the distance as light, zipping along with no resistance. But put both those processors on the same motherboard, and they’ll need to communicate over energy-sapping copper, which slow the communication speeds possible within computers. Two Silicon Valley startups, Avicena and Ayar Labs, are doing something about that longstanding limit. If they succeed in their attempts to finally bring optical fiber all the way to the processor, it might not just accelerate computing—it might also remake it.

Both companies are developing fiber-connected chiplets, small chips meant to share a high-bandwidth connection with CPUs and other data-hungry silicon in a shared package. They are each ramping up production in 2023, though it may be a couple of years before we see a computer on the market with either product.

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