Breakthrough technology could reduce cost of photovoltaic solar cells

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However, the cost of these plastics has been steadily increasing due

to rising oil prices, which runs counter to the industry’s effort to

reduce costs to make solar energy competitive with conventional fossil

fuel. Furthermore, petroleum-based plastics are not environmentally


Bio-based materials can be produced inexpensively, and because

they are derived from renewable plant sources, their costs are not tied

to high oil prices. In the past, conventional bio-based materials have

not been successfully used in solar cell applications, due to their low

melting temperature and fragile molecular structure. Conventional

bio-based materials available today will not withstand most existing

solar cell manufacturing processes.

A team of scientists at US based company, BioSolar have developed

a low cost bio-based material that could dramatically reduce the cost

of photovoltaic cells. This breakthrough material meets the

manufacturing and operating requirements of solar cell systems and is a

result of innovative enhancements to some widely available bio-based

polymers. The tough new material will be able to offer the durability

and environmental characteristics of conventional petroleum-based

plastics, such as electromagnetic properties, mechanical strength,

dimensional stability, and weatherability required by solar cell


By toughening up inexpensive and fragile bio-based materials that

can be used as the backsheet, substrate as well as superstrate, the

technology will reduce the cost of solar cells, whether they are

produced using crystalline silicon, amorphous silicon or other solar


The company state that when using their materials, the cost

reduction over the materials being replaced can be in excess of 50%.

The current market for plastic components and layers exceeds $1

billion, and grows rapidly. The estimated market for backsheet products

alone is currently at $300 million.

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