Solar power could soon be used directly in the manufacturing of new solar cells, making production of a key chemical require zero energy.
“This approach should work and is very environmentally conscious,” Chih-Hung Chang, Oregon State University chemical engineering professor and lead author on the study, told The Daily Fusion. The study, published in the journal Royal Society of Chemistry Advances, found that the sun could be used to create copper indium diselenide ink, a promising solar material. Its efficiency at converting solar energy is high, around 20 percent, and should be capable of improving even more. This ink can already be produced especially inexpensively and quickly, and because it is extremely thin, could potentially be used to coat structures or even windows without getting in the way.
This new process would go the extra step and make its production entirely energy-neutral, faster, and cheaper. “Our system can synthesize solar energy materials in minutes compared to other processes that might take 30 minutes to two hours,” Chang told The Daily Fusion. “This gain in operation speed can lower cost.”
The experiments used artificial sunlight to allow for precise temperature control and uniformity, but the process should work with real sunlight as well. The process should also be possible using molten salt batteries to store daytime sunlight and keep going even when the sun goes down, as in Arizona’s Solana solar plant.