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View Diary: Nearly triple efficiency and lower cost: thin-film solar cell breakthrough (281 comments)

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  •  Depends on a loooot of things (1+ / 0-)
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    But yes, that is in general a good point.  I've worked with greenhouses before.  An untreated thin sheet of polyethylene left in full sun in a bright location  will be brittle to the point of crumbling in a year and heavily fogged.  On the other hand, properly treated, thick transparent plastics like polycarbonate and acrylic can last a decade or so before they start to fog up.  That is, thickness helps maintain structural integrity, certain types of plastics are more resistant to UV damage than others, and there are various types of chemicals, such as UV-absorbing agents and free-radical scavengers, that you can add to control UV damage in plastics.   And when transparency isn't a requirement, the task becomes a lot easier (clearly you need the light to get into the electron donor layer, but you only need electrons to pass through to the rear grid, right?)  

    I don't know if there are any special requirements for the plastic if it's to be used as a solar cell material, but in general I think it should be a controllable issue.  They won't last forever but I'd expect you could get several decades out of them if done right.

    That said, I have to admit that there is some appeal to a solar panel that can last pretty much indefinitely.  I've read some interesting stuff about CIGS to that effect, that some types of CIGS cells actually increase in efficiency the longer they're in the sun.  Apparently exposure to solar radiation causes a natural annealing process which helps remove defects.

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