Scientists at GE’s Global Research Centre have stumbled on a diamond-like material that they believe could have huge benefits for the solar industry.
Silicon Carbide was first discovered during attempts to create artificial diamonds and is the synthetic product of a silicon and carbon crystalline compound. GE’s scientist soon discovered that in addition to sharing similar characteristics to the precious metal, such as resistance to extremely hot conditions and strength, the material also possessed electrical conductivity.
It is these properties that make silicon carbide a perfect substitute for the semiconductors and power conversion methods currently used in traditional solar panels. The new material has many potential benefits for the solar industry as the sector seeks to find margins that will make it a viable and cost effective energy resource in comparison to other sources of energy generation.
With its diamond-like qualities of strength and resistance to high temperatures and the added ability to conduct electricity, scientists believe that silicon carbide is the ideal substitute for the semiconductors currently in use today
Enhanced Efficiency and Invisible Fuel
As the solar industry matures, its progress will now be measured in such marginal gains, and the new material promises better power conversion efficiency. Silicon carbide can achieve double the power density of other silicon materials, which means existing sites can increase their output without having to expand their carbon footprint.
Indeed, such gains are referred to as “invisible fuel” for the benefits they achieve through increased power transportation, conversion and storage efficiency. Silicone carbide has the potential to achieve those gains, particularly in high voltage operations, and the material also offers increased reliability through simpler power conversion systems.
Solar technology has come a long way and the continuous research and development in the industry means that the energy source can be a seriously competitive renewable fuel. Technology coming out of laboratories across the world such as GE’s new semiconductors means that solar has now achieved a significant step in its development. In addition to all the advantages mentioned above, silicon carbide’s main strength in how it will help the industry achieve inverter efficiencies of up to 99 percent, helping to convert more power at less cost and better reliability.
From these high-tech discoveries, to the low-tech solar rejection films available now in the industry. Science has helped the solar industry harness the power of the sun, and now modern inverters will ensure the direct current generated by solar panels is converted into AC current as efficiently as possible. With all its properties and their potential to the industry, silicon carbide may just become a significant moment in the history of solar power technology.