A recent report by the United Nations’ specialized agency, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), forecast that by 2050, 60% of the world’s energy needs could be met by renewable sources such as solar power.
The report also stated that by 2050, 100 GW of solar power capacity could be installed around the world. This would be enough to supply 40% of the globe’s energy needs.
For countries that are serious about reducing their dependence on fossil fuels and promoting clean growth, the adoption of solar power could be a perfect solution. Solar power is a type of renewable energy that does not cause air pollution and is available 24/7.
The report also stated that every $10,000 of investment in solar power can generate enough electricity to supply a home for a year. For perspective, this is equivalent to $10 of investment in conventional power plants. Thus, from an environmental stand-point, solar power is highly efficient and cost-effective.
In order to meet the demand for cleaner energy, several key technologies have been developed that could enable the vast majority of households to become independent of fossil fuels. When combined, these technologies could enable a more sustainable future.
Within the next few years, it is expected that the cost of solar power will continue to decline, making it even more affordable. This could lead to a mass adoption of this clean and sustainable form of energy.
New Technology For Generating Solar Power
In order to produce solar power, solar cells are used to convert sunlight into electricity. Over the years, researchers have developed efficient and inexpensive techniques for making solar cells. This has enabled solar power to become a viable energy source for hundreds of thousands of households worldwide. There are also several large-scale solar power plants that generate enough electricity to supply dozens of towns and cities.
However, just a few years ago, solar power was considered to be a luxury available only to the wealthy. This has changed thanks to technological advancements in the field of solar cells and power plants. The following are several cutting edge technologies that are enabling households and businesses to become independent of fossil fuels:
Silicon carbide (SiC) is a synthetic form of silicon that has higher energy conversion efficiency than pure silicon (used in solar cells). In an article published in the journal Joule, researchers from the University of Cambridge argued that the future of electricity could be in SiC solar cells. The study’s lead author, Dr. Panagiotis Petronis, said that compared to traditional silicon solar cells, they could be more efficient at tapping into the energy in sunlight. Dr. Petronis went on to elaborate that
- SiC solar cells are ideal for areas with high solar radiation, such as the US Southwest, Australia, and Northern Europe;
- They could also be used in conjunction with other renewable energy technologies, such as wind and water; and
- Additionally, SiC solar cells are much more stable than traditional silicon solar cells, which means they require less maintenance and are less likely to break down.
III-V Compound Semiconductors
When placed in the correct environment, group III-V compound semiconductors can produce electricity more efficiently than silicon. This is because unlike silicon, group III-V compound semiconductors can absorb more sunlight and have a wider range of applications, from making solar cells to storing energy in batteries and supercapacitors. For example, GaAs is a common III-V compound semiconductor that is often used in solar cells. In 2017, global demand for GaAs solar cells was 7.7 GW. However, this is expected to change in the near future because of the material’s unique combination of properties. When used in conjunction with solar power plants, III-V compound semiconductors can enhance the energy yield per unit area and reduce the amount of electricity lost to heat. This could further reduce the energy needs of industries and households that rely on fossil fuels.
Graphene is a form of carbon that is one atom thick and has extraordinary physical and chemical properties. It is, without a doubt, one of the most innovative materials ever discovered. In fact, one of the most recognizable symbols of the 21st century could be the graphene logo, which was first used in 2013 to represent all-carbon-based nanomaterials. In the future, graphene could be used in several ways to generate electricity. For example, it could be used as an additive or a catalyst in batteries made from lithium or sodium. Or alternatively, it could be placed on a circuit board and act as a conductor, allowing electricity to flow freely.
All-Organic Solar Cells
All-organic solar cells are made using only materials found in nature. This could eliminate the use of toxic elements, such as lead, in the manufacturing process. In an all-organic solar cell, polymers, such as polyethylene, are used instead of inorganic materials, such as silicon, to form the active layers. These layers absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. In some cases, an all-organic solar cell could be more efficient at converting sunlight into electrical energy than an inorganic solar cell. Additionally, because all-organic solar cells are made using materials found in nature, there is no risk of running out of fossil fuels in the near future. This could potentially enable all-organic solar cells to become the new standard for households worldwide, replacing their carbon-based counterparts.
Just like traditional silicon solar cells, dye-sensitized solar cells (DSSCs) also use a semiconductor material to absorb sunlight and generate electricity. However, instead of using silicon, DSSCs use organic dyes that are selectively absorbed by the material placed on the outside of the cell, known as a photoanode. When placed in the proper environment, the organic dyes of a DSSC can undergo a chemical change and transfer their electrons to an electrode, creating an electrical current. This electrical current could then be used to charge a phone, run a fridge, or even provide power to a home.
While it is not practical to install a traditional silicon solar cell on a roof or a wall due to its fragile nature and lack of durability, DSSCs could provide an alternative for those seeking a sustainable energy source. Additionally, because the materials used in DSSCs are relatively simple and cheap to make, the global supply is likely to grow rapidly in the coming years.
If you’re seeking a more sustainable option than fossil fuels, you could look into thermal storage, which could enable you to generate your own electricity using heat from the sun. Thermal storage works by storing heat in the form of liquid or solidified liquid. The ability to store excess solar heat is what makes this technology so special. As a result, industries and households that use a lot of electricity, such as data centers and air-conditioning units, could become energy independent.
Polymer Battery Technology
A number of industries, from the electronics sector to aviation, rely on batteries to store electricity. Batteries are a type of energy storage system where organic or inorganic materials are used to liberate electrons for electrical current. This is different from most other types of energy storage systems, where electricity is stored using inorganic materials, such as rocks and metal oxides. A key advantage of using polymers in batteries is that they are much more environmentally-friendly than their inorganic counterparts. This is because most polymers are biodegradable and do not pose a threat to the environment, which is the case with most other inorganic materials.
Lithium-sulfur batteries are relatively new, but have become incredibly popular because they are light-weight and have high energy density. These batteries are made using a sulfur electrode and a lithium electrode, which are both capable of storing energy. Like most other energy storage technologies, the more you use it, the more it will store. This could enable industries and households that use a lot of electrical energy to become energy independent. Additionally, because lithium-sulfur batteries are rechargeable, they have a very high charge retention rate.
Solid-state lighting (SSL) uses light-emitting diodes (LEDs) instead of the traditional incandescent light bulb. SSL has several advantages over traditional lighting. First, it uses less energy. It also has a much longer lifespan and is more resistant to shock and vibration. Finally, it is more secure and portable, as there is no open flame and it does not require any additional accessories to use.