NRL Focusing on New High-Efficiency, Flexible Cell
By JAMES PETERSON, Editorial Assistant
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. — The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) currently is researching and developing a new high-efficiency yet flexible photovoltaic cell in order to surpass the Navy’s solar energy goals, a head researcher said during a showcase at Sea-Air-Space on April 9.
While current technology meets the solar energy goals set by the Navy, Phillip Jenkins, researcher and speaker, pointed out some of its problems, such as bulkiness and degrading parts.
“Our [research and development] is to fill this need for a flexible, high-efficiency cell,” Jenkins said.
These kinds of photovoltaic cells exist for space craft. However, they cost 1,000 times more than normal cells, the trick is lowering their cost. Jenkins believes that rolling the cells on “a less-expensive substrate using faster growth techniques” would “drive down the price a great deal.”
Jenkins also explained that underwater solar power research is showing some progress, and right now the goal is to look at the effect bio-fouling has on the cells in the water.
“We’ve shown you can generate solar underwater, so then you move on to the next problem, which is preventing the bio-fouling,” he said.