About this Research Topic
Solar energy is perhaps the most abundant source of energy on earth, offering many attractive benefits. For example, replacing fossil fuel combustion with solar energy reduces greenhouse gases and air pollution. In addition, because sunlight is free, there is little operating cost once solar panels are installed. In particular, the sun is a perennial source of energy, thereby providing insurance against conventional fuel supply disruptions and price volatility. Despite these benefits, solar energy currently supplies less than 1% of the electrical energy generated in the US. This is largely because solar energy traditionally has a higher cost than conventional energy sources. However, extensive research over the past decades has resulted in a significant drop in solar energy manufacturing costs and sales prices making them competitive with conventional sources. Continued strong research, therefore, could enable solar energy technologies to command a larger share of global energy production in the near future.
Low conversion efficiency from sunlight to electricity, and rapid deterioration of material properties under the operation conditions, are two major sources for high cost of solar energies. In general, thin film or other forms of solar cells contain a variety of defects including point defects, dislocations, grain boundaries, stacking faults, and polymorphisms. These defects adversely impact the conversion efficiency, resulting in a cost per watt. Understanding the effects of these defects, and then optimizing the efficiency by defect engineering can therefore effectively reduce the solar energy costs. Aging of solar panels is another significant problem. Typically, solar modules experience continuous decrease in efficiency with time. Understanding the aging mechanisms and developing materials with increased resistance to performance degradation and improved stability can also effectively reduce the cost per watt throughout the lifetime of the solar module. With improved understanding of the key material structures needed for high efficiency and good aging resistance, we can minimize the raw materials used in the solar module, further reducing the cost.
The research needs identified above require concerted efforts from materials synthesis, electrical and structural characterization, and computer modeling. This Research Topic aims to create an effective forum for researchers to share advances, discuss issues, and stimulate new ideas towards developing improved solar energy technologies with reduced costs. This Research Topic welcomes papers in the form of either Perspective, regular Original Research or Review articles.
Keywords: Solar Energy, Photovoltaics, Microstructures, Defects, Simulations
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