A perspective on the future of solar cell research breakthroughs

Dr Jeffery Lee Johnson, Photovoltaic System Designer at Jidoka S.A de CVJeffrey cautions us to be open minded as we get excited about solar cell research breakthroughs.

It is difficult to predict the successful transitions of technology from the laboratory to a viable and feasible product for mass deployment. There are many,…many more hurdles to jump through during the process of proving in manoeuvrability — cost, durability, mass production, yield, distribution, proven reliability in the field.

While I applaud efforts of research, it is important to understand that the duration for a technology to move from proof of concept to a viable product takes millions of dollars and several years. It is really a question if this technology will withstand the test of finding investors to absorb the risk of bringing it to market.

History is flooded with great technological discoveries that have never panned out — not because they were not excellent ideas but they missed the boat.

For example, Plasma gasification is now making the scene to convert garbage to water, recycled materials and electricity. But this is recycled technology that was once forgotten. First discovered in 1812, it was perfected by the German army during the 1040´s.

After the war, it was largely forgotten as the German science was disseminated largely in favour of rocket technology — no one needed to replace fossil fuel technology at that time. It was moth balled. It has been recently rediscovered and and modernized.

So it is a question of a technology that arises at the right time/place that is important, and as promising as a potential product.

I do not think anything will replace Silicon based solar cells for several more years if not a decade — largely because it has withstood the test of time and market demands, it now supports a billion dollar industry.

Disruptive technologies such as the one described here rarely make an impact without a substantial amount of financial support and may disrupt the current market.

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