Solar power could become the world’s leading source of energy by 2050, according to a 2014 report from the International Energy Agency. That’s great news for the end of fossil fuel consumption, especially as our environment continues to bear the brunt of our reliance on unsustainable fuels.
The only question is, why is it taking so long to make the switch to sustainable energy?
Although there are many reasons why we’ve been slow on the uptake to embrace renewable power, pricing is a major roadblock standing in the way of green energy. Solar panels are expensive. Most solar installation agencies will cover the costs of installations — but they still require a 20-year contract on average.
When solar becomes more affordable, it will help address some of the skepticism renewable energy has faced as a reliable alternative to fossil fuels. One California-based start-up called Rayton Solar has realized that production costs have limited the popularity of solar, and it hopes to tackle the issue with a rather unusual solution: a particle accelerator.
Particle accelerators are usually associated with solving the mysteries of the universe, rather than creating affordable solar panels — but that could all change in the near future.
As explained by Bill Nye the Science Guy, one of the main costs of producing solar panels comes down to silicon. In order to get a small amount of silicon, there’s a huge amount of wasted materials during the production process — hence the cost. Rayton Solar uses a particle accelerator to create the thinnest-ever silicon wafers.
As a result, 50-100 times less silicon is used during the production process, which results in manufacturing savings in the realm of 60%. These silicon wafers,which are only 3 microns thick, and are projected to be 25% more efficient than solar panels currently on the market.
CEO Andrew Yakub has an extensive background in clean technology, having previously founded ReGen America, a solar start-up. ReGen America is now valued at $15 million. Prior to that, Yakub worked with UCLA’s Particle Beam Physics Lab as a design engineer and interned with NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab. He was also featured in Forbes’ prestigious “30 Under 30” list in 2016.
So, What’s Next?
While the technology is there, Rayton Solar isn’t producing these super-slim panels for the public just yet. The company has received $2.8 million in equity funding and is now crowdsourcing a second wave of funding to propel the project into phase two. You can reserve shares in Rayton through Start Engine, if you fancy yourself as an early adopter.
In the meantime, the rest of us will have to wait and see how new technological advances will continue to impact the solar industry. With a renewed zest for renewables, it’s likely that we’ll see more solar tech redefine the industry over the coming years.