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One of the factors keeping Solar Panels expensive is the high cost of silicon. Almost 90% of cells use silicon in their production. And now the demand for pure silicon has surpassed the production making it even more expensive.

The cells with the highest efficiency need pure silicon. When impurities are present in the silicon crystal they have a tendency to capture electrons that are needed to generate the electricity.

Promising new research from a team at the University of California, Berkeley may offer a way around this. A new process of cooling the silicon allows impurities to clump together. When they are evenly distributed they reduce the ability of the electrons to move through the material, reducing efficiency.

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Artist's impression of an intense beam of synchrotron radiation (from the upper left) striking a solar cell, imaging the iron impurity.

Researchers develop technique to use dirty silicon, could pave way for cheaper solar energy

By Sarah Yang

BERKELEY - A research team led by engineers at the University of California, Berkeley, has developed a new technique to handle metal defects in low-grade silicon, an advance that could dramatically reduce the cost of solar cells.

Nearly 90 percent of solar, or photovoltaic, cells in the world are made from a refined, highly purified form of silicon, the same material used to make integrated circuits. The growth of the semiconductor and solar cell industries has put increasing pressure on relatively limited supplies of this high-quality silicon, consequently driving up the price of the material.


"Solar energy is often touted as the most promising and secure alternative energy source, capable of reducing our dependence on foreign fuels while reducing the emission of dangerous gases that harm world climate," said Weber. "The current worldwide growth rate of photovoltaics is 30 to 45 percent per year, which is nothing short of amazing. However, the solar energy industry could grow much faster if researchers and manufacturers could further reduce the cost of solar cells."

The team analyzed how metal contaminants in silicon respond to different types of processing using highly sensitive synchrotron X-Ray microprobes capable of detecting metal clusters as small as 30 nanometers.

The researchers found that the nano-sized defects scattered throughout the silicon limited the average distance electrons were able to travel before losing their energy. The longer the distance, known as the minority carrier diffusion length, the greater the energy conversion efficiency of the material.

The researchers found that they were able to manipulate the distribution of the metal impurities by varying the cooling rate of the silicon. When the material is cooled quickly, the metal defects are quickly locked in a scattered distribution. By simply slowing down the cooling rate, the metal impurities diffused into large clusters.


The researchers point out that techniques such as varying the cooling rate of silicon is an easy, cost-effective adjustment to current manufacturing procedures.

"We're targeting mainstream technology," said Weber. "The approach we are proposing could lead to substantial progress in making solar energy more widely available with just a few tweaks in the manufacturing process."

The researchers say that by 2006, the photovoltaic industry is projected to use more silicon than the microelectronic industry, and that keeping solar energy cost-effective may depend upon finding ways to utilize the dirtier, cheaper silicon material.

The findings were  published Aug. 14 in the journal Nature Materials. The link is to the press release from UC Berkeley.

There may be other detrimental effects using the "dirty" silicon that have not been discovered yet, but this is a promising development.

I know this is a couple of months old, but didn't see it posted. Thought it fit in well with the ongoing energy discussion.

Originally posted to SeattleLiberal on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 05:29 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  If this is old news (4.00)
    let me know. I have not quite figured out the "tag" thing yet.
  •  Recommending. Good diary. (4.00)
  •  very cool (4.00)
    I'm becoming somewhat optimistic about alternative seems to be gaining momentum

    of course..things are still totally messed least we're making progress

    •  Interestingly enough (4.00)
      Interestingly enough firms that deal with solar power are among the better growing stocks over the past few months with Everett Solar and Energy Conversion Devices (Ovonic solar is a division of theirs) having surprising increases over the past several months (ECD being particularly good to see as they are among the only firms located in Michigan to be growing).

      "All Politics is Local" - former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil

      by Mister Gloom on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 05:46:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Agreed! (none)
      Sometimes I need to remind myself how much time I spend reading diaries here, lest I start to assume everyone is intelligent and aware.  

      Here's a great diary from a few weeks ago about alt. energy sources that started off about tidal energy and turned into a compendium of alternate energy sources.

  •  dirty solar (4.00)
    I'd wager the best solar is done by plants  - On a more related note, I heard about a new substance called graphene, one atom thick sheets of carbon molecules. I'm not sure if it's made the diary rounds yet.  If it pans out, it'll be huge!
    •  Greek (none)
      What is a Hall effect? What would be the effect of cold on Graphene?

      Could Graphene be used as part of silicon chips? Will it replace copper wires?

      So many questions, but I am not a scientist. Sounds like a job for some great expert to be able to explain it to other great experts.

      A President in his own league. The Bush League!

      by Tuba Les on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 07:49:00 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  massless Dirac fermions (none)
      are fun to theorize about (no mass makes the math easier). But now to find out they exist on the mesoscopic scale
      give us access to the rich and subtle physics of quantum electrodynamics (QED) in a bench-top condensed matter experiment."
      QED explains the interactions between electrons and photons. That accounts for 95% of all interactions. In particlur, the internet, it only being, in the end, eletrons transmitting impulses in and out of optical fibers.

      Another interesting angle is finding analogues between Hawking's world of black holes and exotic behavours in superfluids. Instead of lightwaves out of a black hole, you have acoustic waves in moving supercold helium. Exploring the cosmos in a bench-top condensed matter experiment.
      Analog models of General Relativity
      Matt Visser

      The Place of Dead Roads
      "The City of Louisiana has dodged the bullet with Hurricane Corrina."

      by Dr Benway on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 10:34:19 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the info. Highly recommend. (4.00)

    He that chooses his own path needs no map. Queen Kristina of Sweden.

    by Boppy on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 05:46:15 PM PST

  •  Glad to see this made the Recommended list. (4.00)
    •  A lot of solar is low tech (4.00)
      I've actually been thinking about doing a diary on low tech solar. The majority some of the really cool things people can do with solar has absolelutely nothing whatsoever to do with photovoltaics.

      For example, solar air heaters. The concept of a solar air heater is simple. It is basically a flat box with two shallow chambers inside, one above the other. The chambers are connected at the outdoor end. One end is mounted in your window opening and sealed with weatherstripping against the trim and the window frame. The other end slopes downward outdoors with a clear top facing the sun's rays.

      The sun shines through the clear top into the top chamber and heats the air. This warm air, because it is less dense than cool air, naturally flows up and out into your room. This draws cooler room air into the bottom chamber to create a continuous flow of solar-heated air into your room. A solar heater can produce enough heat to keep an average-sized room warm well into the evening.

      "Lou Brock was a great base stealer, but today, I am the greatest!" -- Oakland A Rickey Henderson

      by friday durdikova on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 08:46:56 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Major plants planned for CA (4.00)
    There is a renewed push for industrial-sized solar plants:
    Stirling Energy Systems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, Calif.
    Instead of the photovoltaic panels that people have been placing on their roofs, the plan is to use large mirrors concentrate sunlight, thereby providing a heat source, which in turn runs small generators which produce electricity:

    Power is generated by heat transfer from the concentrated solar rays to the working gas in the engine's heater head, which converts the heat energy into mechanical motion. This power runs the electric generator, which produces electricity with an output of 480 Volts and 60 Hertz, so it is already power-conditioned by the generator's interface. The generator of each unit in a utility-scale project is connected by underground wire to a small substation where the power can be transformed into a higher voltage for more efficient transmission across the grid.
  •  Does it increase the energy input (4.00)
    for manufacturing? The key question is whether slowing the cooling rate requires greater energy input to maintain heat levels.

    One of the big knocks that I've heard regarding photovoltaics is not only the cost, but that most processes lead to a net loss of energy. That is the manufacturing process requires more energy than the end product photovoltaics will produce. Hence the focus on the using solar cells for specialized applications.

    The new process might lead to lower cost silicon inputs, but it may be a wash if energy inputs are higher.

    - "You're Hells Angels, then? What chapter are you from?"

    by Hoya90 on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:21:01 PM PST

    •  True (4.00)
      The researchers pointed out that there may be other drawbacks with the process when it goes to mass production.

      They were working on a very small scale.

      We'll see.

    •  Just because it uses more energy to create it (4.00)
      than will be recovered from it doesn't mean that it is effectively a net energy loss as long as the energy used to create it is energy that would have otherwise been lost in circumstances such as long distance transmission or "dumping" of nonpeak power.

      In other words, put the cell manufacturing plant near the power plant and schedule production timing appropriately.

      -6.88/-5.64 Right between Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Dudes! I am sooo in a like totally awsome place!

      by John West on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:42:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  untrue (4.00)
      That photovoltaics require more energy to produce than they output is a myth, and unfortunately a pretty widely accepted one. After a few years of use the energy balance turns positive - with current technology at a moderate latitude I think 3 years or so is not uncommon for a break-even point, though I may be off a bit.
      •  You're right... (4.00)
        These are rather trivial calculations that as you might well imagine, those of us who work in the field are quite keen to perform.  No one wants to get into this game to create energy sinks.  Current energy payback when you factor everything in is something like three to four years.  Service life should be fifteen to twenty.  There is a real effort to increase that.

        The technique mentioned in this piece would probably have very little impact on the over-all energy input.  After all, these calculations are very inclusive with things like the energy required for the smelting of the metals in the frames, the fuels for shipping, literally everything involved in making the modules, the cells the systems and installing and transporting them.  So, how fast you cool down the Si melt is probably a second order effect.  What probably matters more is how hot you had to get it, which is unchanged.

        More generally, this piece is indicative of the fact that there is a lot of milage to be gained by continued research on Si.  It is the third most abundant element on the planet.  It has a wonderful native oxide.  A near ideal band gap for the solar spectrum (although it is indirect).  It has the multi-billion dollar IC industry to piggy-back on, there is over fifty years of intensive research on the material out there in the literature, metalization technologies etc.  The list is nearly endless.

        The bottle neck in high quality single crystal substrates should be looked upon as an opportunity to drive research into alternative approaches.  This is just one of many possibilities.  Thin Si on glass, re-crystalization techniques.  There are lots of possibilities out there.  We just need to pressure Congress to fund them.  This is largely public money after all.  Universities and the National Labs.

      •  or, why not just power (none)
        the production of the cells with solar in the first place?!

        "I was always dreaming of very powerful people, dictators and things like that." -- Arnold Schwarzenegger in "Pumping Iron"

        by hoodoo meat bucket on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:26:07 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

    •  It's gotta be lower input... (4.00)
      and correspondingly lower $ input than purifying the silicon, or they wouldn't bother.

      A Senator YOU can afford
      $1 contributions only.
      Masel for Senate
      1214 E. Mifflin St.
      Madison, WI 53703

      by ben masel on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:52:23 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Cool! (4.00)
    Trying to curry favor with our favorite Frenchman, Jerome a Paris, eh? ;-)

    In Seattle, please also consider checking out Sustainable Ballard--there may be some people there who know more about the applicability of this techonology. Next meeting is Monday, November 28, 2005, 7pm - 9 pm.

    NYT also had an article recently about the power drain from millions of appliances and gadgets in standby mode, cutely entitled
    I Vant to Drink Your Vatts

  •  Or, we might just move away from Silicone (4.00)
    Like some promising research going on.

    Moving into the IR spectrum has the added bonus of retaining better effectiveness on cloudy days.

    I think ... therefore I'm probably overqualified for public office

    by zeppomarx on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:44:45 PM PST

  •  "Clean" silicon (4.00)
    The higher price of clean silicon is less a matter of shortage, than that the process of purifying it takes lots of energy, normally from gas.

    A Senator YOU can afford
    $1 contributions only.
    Masel for Senate
    1214 E. Mifflin St.
    Madison, WI 53703

    by ben masel on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 06:49:21 PM PST

    •  Thanks (4.00)
      for clarifying this. I should have mentioned it but didn't.
    •  Amen to That (none)
      Silicon is one of the (if not THE) most abundant materials on Earth; there's a helluva lot of water flowing around, as well. And yet, we have a 'shortage' of both - and people paying $1/pint for water (which has repeatedly been proven to be more impure than what flows from your tap) so they can throw a plastic bottle into a landfill.

      We have a long, long way to go. Either that, or a short, short time left.

      Ben, I've never heard of a political aspirant refusing contributions of over $1. I don't know if that's a stunt (I doubt that), a symbolic gesture (my guess), or something else - but, once again, you've impressed me in a major way. Of course, stamps just went up again (the postal service will receive roughly 1/2 as much revenue from this gesture as you will! LOL), and the postman is gonna be expending a lot of energy carrying around all those envelopes containing $1 each, but hey, Democracy ain't cheap (albeit cheaper than ReThugliosity). I'll trade your short-term, energy-inefficient campaign funding methods for long-term environmental sanity any day. I'm currently an ex-pat, and no one up here in the Great White North has seen a dollar bill (in local currency) in a LONG time, but I'll be mailing you a Loonie this week. It only works out to $0.82 US (today), but I'm hopeful you'll make an exception to the "$1 contributions only" in this case, since it is $1 to ME, and it works out to less than, not more than, a US dollar.  ;)

      Wishing you the best!


      "It's not that I hate my country; it's that I love my country so much I can't stand to watch what it's doing to itself." --Walt Whitman

      by grndrush on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 03:36:42 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Dirty Silicone? (4.00)
    I click on the link and there's a frikkin' graph?? What kind of ...
    Oh. Dirty silicon. My bad. Synchrotron radiation is kinda sexy too.
  •  It is good to hear (4.00)
    about this new (more or less) way of improving the production process of panels.

    There are a number of promising new solar photovoltaic technologies - just because crystalline silicon is currently the most widely used technology does not make it the best, and I personally do not expect it to dominate the market for much longer. Other promising technologies include thin films, polymer (plastic)-based photovoltaic materials, tiny spheres of silicon, nanocrystals... there are many. Some use silicon but in reduced quantities, and some use other materials entirely.

    However, in the short-term, we are stuck with crystalling silicon. Currently, there is indeed a shortage of processed silicon that is driving up prices worldwide - my boyfriend works in a solar business in Central America and recently a lot of what he has been doing at work is chasing after solar panel distributors (rather than doing all of the other ten thousand things that running a small business requires). The competition for available silicon is just so keen now (both for solar and electronics).

    So, anything that might allow lower-grade silicon to be more widely used in the short-term is very welcome. Thanks for the post!

    •  Don't sell crystalline short (none)
      You're totally right about the plethora of interesting alternative solar materials. But a lot of intelligent people have been working on silicon manufacturing for a lot of years, and (as the original post showed) there's still a lot of tricks to explore. And because there's so much equipment, so many processes, and such a well-established supply chain in place for working with silicon, it has an advantage that will be very difficult to surmount. Something will do it someday, but I'd bet on it taking decades, not years.

      It's hard to get rid of an incumbent in the House of Representatives, but it's harder to get rid of one in semiconductor manufacturing!

  •  Another form of cheaper solar energy (none)
    is wind mills.
    •  Huh? (none)
      I think you are confused...?
      •  I think this is the (none)
        "Wind is caused by differential heating from the sun" theory of solar energy. Of course, if that's true, then black goo squished from the biomass of plants and dinos should also be "solar energy" — you go, photosynthesis!
        •  You're right (none)
          to extend the analogy, but there is an important practical difference.  PV and wind are solar energy storage that is in short term storage, then use, then is converted to heat, almost as if we had not used the energy along the way.  It's almost free or no impact from a total energy flux standpoint, and most importantly, can be expected to be renewed over short time scales.  Black goo takes what, millions of years to renew, and traditional biomass takes quite some time as well (~years).  Non-solar energy sources (geothermal, earth based nuclear) take even longer (hundreds of millions of years?) as they apparently originate from atoms formed in stars and put into things like planets after the star explodes :)
          •  Biomass timescale is a pipeline question (none)
            Proponents of ethanol and the like will argue that once it's flowing, the storage or "fermentation" of biomass will be moot. A good wine may take ten years or more, but there's no shortage on the shelves. There's a world of other issues with biomass/plant-based solutions that leave me unenthusiastic (pollution foremost, but the idea of multiple mid-west states just growing fields of fuel and tying up water resources isn't fun either).

            Hey, if we're gonna go long-scale, let's grab some shovels and start digging for Helium-3 on the moon! Not that anybody's ever proven that 1) enough is there and 2) it would be feasible for fusion if there were, but if geothermal moholes are on the menu, moon cheese should be also! Actually, I'm hoping if I live another 30 years that practical fusion will only be five years away then instead of ten years like it is now. That way, I'll know we're making progress.

            •  300 Watts a Square Meter... (none)
              Thats a lot of energy.. Enough to boil a lot of water, for example..

              You don't need silicon.. (which is abundant in sand, etc.)

              Why are they suppressing any serious discussion of solar energy?

              Why does decentralized, independent energy THREATEN people in Washington?

              What are they expecting for the future? Why do they want us to be dependent on big power, even if it makes us vulnerable to so many bad things..

              If we had solar power, water pumps could run and cities drink, even if the electricity grid was out of commission. That seems like a really good thing if terrorism used something like EMP to paralyze the energy grid.. (not an unlikely scenario.. and under the current system, millions would die for lack of food and water)

              •  Where are you getting 300W/m^2? (none)
                That's a pretty high power density, and I haven't seen a citation of that sort of power from solar anywhere.


                Plot your political compass scores at KosCompass

                by Hatamoto on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 11:43:40 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  I think they are (none)
                  just giving some estimate of incident solar energy at the surface.

                  This is from a HORRIBLE looking page from

                  The University of Oregon

                  * Average over the entire earth = 164 Watts per square meter over a 24 hour day So the entire planet receives 84 Terrawatts of Power our current worldwide consumption is about 10 Terrawatts  so is this a solution?

                  There is a large amount of infrastructure (e.g. cost) required to convert from potential to deliverable energy.

                  * 8 hour summer day, 40 degree latitude 600 Watts per sq. meter

                  •  That is Terrifying (none)
                    If your numbers are correct (and I'm certainly not questioning them), the planet's current level of daily energy usage is equal to 12% of all the energy the Sun delivers to the planet in the course of that day!

                    Virtually ALL the energy we use today is solar energy stored in some other form (the dinosaurs who provided the oil we are now burning through at a lightening pace mostly ate plants, which required sunlight - as did the dinosaurs themselves, etc). Once we finish burning through the stored energy laying around the planet, civilization will require 1/8th of the entire energy delivered by the Sun in order to sustain itself - assuming no increase in useage whatsoever between now and then! Given that no method of transforming energy from one form to another is (or will ever be) 100% efficient, and making the very rational assumption there's no way we will ever find a method of directly capturing (and efficiently storing) more than a small percentage of the energy the Sun so kindly delivers to our planet, it's quite clear there's only one answer to our long-term energy problem: conservation. It will likely require not only more efficient useage of the energy left (which is assured, given the price of energy by then, care of supply and demand), but a return to a simpler, 'minimalist' culture. I'm not talking about a few communes here and there - I'm talking about the entire planet. We'll have no choice.

                    Certainly technology will provide us some buffer zone, but at the rate we're going, it will be way too little, way too late.

                    FWIW, ethanol is likely the biggest red herring ever conceived. It takes more energy to create a gallon of ethanol than that gallon of ethanol produces. As such, it is no 'alternative' source of energy at all; it's simply a way to burn through what we have left, faster. It's exactly the opposite of what it's marketed as being.


                    "It's not that I hate my country; it's that I love my country so much I can't stand to watch what it's doing to itself." --Walt Whitman

                    by grndrush on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 02:44:12 AM PST

                    [ Parent ]

            •  Heh, have a 4 (none)
              "moon cheese" and "if I live another 30 years that practical fusion will only be five years away then instead of ten years like it is now" thanks for the chuckles :)

              It seems to me the solar/thermal related technologies (including wind) should be the easiest short to mid-term solutions.  Fusion is probably the long term winner, but the perpetual 10-20 year horizon has been troubling.  We'll get there, but it will take a serious investment.  America is falling behind.

        •  Ask any Pilot (none)
          Wind is caused by heat; it seems reasonable to assume that heat comes from the Sun. Ever notice how calm the air generally is just before dawn, then the wind picks up as the Sun rises? This is why most balloonists are out doing their thing at the crack of dawn. Also notice the wind settling down as the Sun sets.

          An interesting historical note in this regard: As a soldier in WWI, Hilter was nearly gassed to death by what would probably be called "friendly gas" today. In "Mein Kampf" he blames the allies for the mustard gas that nearly killed him, but in reality what happened was quite predictable. The Germans tried to gas the allies in the early morning hours, hoping to get them asleep in their foxholes. They were a bit late. The Sun started to rise before the gas had cleared, the wind shifted direction as a direct result, and the gas blew back on the German positions, Hilter's being one of them.


          "It's not that I hate my country; it's that I love my country so much I can't stand to watch what it's doing to itself." --Walt Whitman

          by grndrush on Tue Nov 22, 2005 at 01:51:11 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not questioning it! (none)
            Yikes, I meant theory in the scientific sense, not the tapdancing ID sense. Sorry if that wasn't clear. As a boomerang thrower, I have healthy respect for the sun-wind correlation; as you note, best day times for low wind are sunrise and sunset.
  •  Seattle? Solar Energy? (none)
    I never would have put the two together. Hydroelectric maybe.

    Big Oil earns $200,000 profit per minute.

    by bobinson on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 07:02:54 PM PST

  •  I wish every home owner was (none)
    given a tax break to cover the cost of adding several panels to their homes.

    BIRTH CONTROL....the solution to many problems.

    by mattes on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 07:44:47 PM PST

    •  Is that a short-sighted policy? (none)
      I suspect it is, but am hoping to get set straight :)  (Honestly :)

      There is currently something like that available in California.

      I honestly don't think it's a very effective (high value if you will) kind of program.  If the government is going to spend the good people's money directly (a tax break seems to be that IMHO) to make energy in the short term using existing technology, I'm all for it, but why do it with such expensive technology?  I really think the money would be better invested into research into promising future technologies, or existing clean renewable technologies that are less expensive.

      Sure some things of value would come of it (economies of scale, positive public support for renewables, etc.) but I'm not convinced these would be durable effects.  Here's why:  in the late 70's, wind was aggressively promoted by the Carter administration.  This was a good idea, but was implemented poorly.  The result was easy money for anybody who installed windmills.  A lot of people who had no idea what they were doing got involved, and a lot of poor quality machines were put up.  Wind was given a public black eye, and went out of favor for at least a decade in the US.  I'm concerned that when people install expensive PV systems with the best of intentions and high expectations, they will be disappointed when after a decade or so the system performance is degraded and they are tired of maintaining it, and are still behind financially.  I just fear it's a political warm fuzzy that's great for people making and installing the systems, but not anything close to the best use of the money for the society in general.

      The money could be put into research in solar-thermal, wind, ocean wave/thermal gradient/tidal systems, nuclear fusion, and new PV materials with a much higher likelyhood of a meaningful payoff for the long term (>20 years?).

      Ok, I'm bracing for an education ;)

      •  I know next to nothing about (none)
        these technologies. But when I saw that solar might become more affortable I thought it could be a good idea for mass use. What ever technoloy is rolled out the specs and costs would have to monitored by the government, at least in the beginning because the free market place would have too much latitude for abuse and incompetance. This is too important to let the free market screw around.

        BIRTH CONTROL....the solution to many problems.

        by mattes on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 09:34:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Panasonic home hydrogen fuel cell (none)
    runs on 'city gas' at the moment, but the website says solar will be the future of this home power generator I recently saw working in Tokyo - there's also one in the Japanese Prime Minister's residence.
  •  just imagine (4.00)
    what $250B would have done for the solar energy industry, instead of wasting it in Iraq, for NOTHING.

    I don't think we'd have 2500 dead GIs and over 10,000 wounded from cranking up wind, solar, tides, geothermal.

  •  don't miss this diary, either (none)

    paper-thin reels of photovoltaic film.  bad ass.

  •  In the microelectronics industry (none)
    we always joke when the price of Silicon goes up that it must mean they are running out of sand on the beaches. Of course the real reasons are much more complex.

    With the enormous expansion of the Chinese semiconductor industry, the demand for both doped, and high resistivity silicon has far outpaced production. If photovoltaic cells could be produced using less pure material it would eliminate that issue but not necessarily solve the problem.

    The Asian manufacturing operations have been hoarding surplus and used semiconductor manufacturing equipment with the intention of massively expanding their capabilities. This older equipment is mostly outdated in the sub micron fabrication realm that high end chipmakers work in now. Still, micromachining (MEMS), optoelectronics, and many other types of microfabrication make use of this equipment. While still quite expensive, these machines are a steal compared to a new high end unit. We're talking 300,000USD for a CMP unit that has been sitting in a cleanroom for 10 years in pretty much perfect condition compared to a brand new polisher that does the same thing for over 2 million.

    These are the types of machines that the solar energy manufacturers need for mass production using any type of silicon. They are not terribly difficult to find now, but are getting rarer, and more expensive as the demand goes up.

    I would like to also add that our country's technological education policy since the end of the cold war is driving this movement of equipment and jobs off the continent, but that's a story for another time. You have to spend money to make money is the lesson there.

  •  thanks! (none)
    Keep us up to date with this
  •  This is a great diary... (none)

    --this is information that we have to keep front and center.

    I am learning about biodiesel as well.  Would like our next car to be diesel powered.  We have to get more awareness and availability to the general public who are unaware how easy it is to use and its low emissions.  The only drawback I hear is that its not too good at real cold temperatures - but half the country could use it and this would conserve a great deal of gasoline (and maybe lower prices?)

    Stop Looking For Leaders - WE are the Leaders!!!

    by SwimmertoFreedom04 on Mon Nov 21, 2005 at 10:34:14 PM PST

    •  My understanding of biodiesel (none)
      in a cold environment is that it can be used if you do blends and/or have heating elements.

      This is just a quick Google search - not sure about the reliability of the source. It just fits what friends using biodiesel have told me.


      What happens to Biodiesel in cold weather?

      Recent independent studies show that 100% Biodiesel (B100) has a very small temperature range between the cloud point and pour point, CP +35° F, PP +32° F (+2° C, 0° C). This is approximately 44° F & 49° F (25° C & 27° C) warmer than standard #2 petroleum diesel. Cloud point is the temperature at which the fuel begins to thicken, and pour point is the temperature where it is no longer considered a liquid, but rather a solid that would not pour from a tipped container.

      What can be done to use Biodiesel in cold weather?

      Lighter blend ratios result in cloud and pour points not too far from standard #2 petroleum diesel. For example a 2% blend of Biodiesel (B2) has a cloud point only about 4° F (2° C) warmer than standard #2 petroleum diesel. At heavier blends, the addition of heat through heat exchangers in the fuel tank and/or in the fuel line is used to keep the fuel flowing.

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