An MIT assessment of solar energy technologies concludes that today’s widely used crystalline silicon technology is efficient and reliable and could feasibly be deployed at the large scale needed to mitigate climate change by midcentury.
In 2014, solar accounted for fully a third of all new US generation capacity; and as shown in the figure below, residential, commercial, and (especially) utility-scale PV installations have all flourished in recent years.
The world’s installed PV capacity exceeds 200 gigawatts (GW), accounting for more than 1% of global electricity generation.
“What we need is a cell that performs just as well but is thinner, flexible, lightweight, and easier to transport and install,” says Bulović.
Research teams worldwide are now on the track of making such a PV cell.
One of the few renewable, low-carbon energy resources that could scale up to meet worldwide electricity demand is solar.
Silicon solar cells do a good job transforming the sun’s energy into electricity today, but will they be up to the task in the future, when vast solar deployment will be needed to mitigate climate change?
Our collaborations include on-campus resources including Materials Research Laboratory, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, Materials Science and Engineering Department, Chemical Engineering Department, Mechanical Engineering Department, and off-campus ones including Northwestern University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Argonne National Laboratory, University of Minnesota, University of Notre Dame, Stanford University, Veeco, and IBM.
Our research team is recognized with distinguished (inter)national awards such as NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, NASA Space Technology Research Fellowship, Goldwater Scholarship, and CS Mantech Best Paper Award.
And what role might be played by the many other PV technologies now being developed in research labs the world over?
Addressing such questions was the goal of a recent wide-ranging assessment by Vladimir Bulović, the Fariborz Maseeh (1990) Professor of Emerging Technology and MIT’s associate dean for innovation; Tonio Buonassisi, associate professor of mechanical engineering; Robert Jaffe, the Jane and Otto Morningstar Professor of Physics; and graduate students Joel Jean of electrical engineering and computer science and Patrick Brown of physics.