If you’ve been into outer space lately, you may have seen some germanium-based solar cells. They’re primarily used on NASA spacecrafts. For the few who haven’t, then you may not be aware of germanium at all. That’s because, as a solar cell material, germanium is far too expensive. Or is it?
Germanium is an efficient semiconductor. However, as a material it is very brittle and, subsequently, difficult to cut thin, with a significant amount of material wasted in the cutting. In what could have major repercussions for the solar industry, University of Utah students have developed a new way of cutting germanium into thin wafers for solar cell production. Using a tiny molybdenum wire with an electrical current running through it, the students can cut thin, round wafers of germanium from cylindrical ingots. This, they say, could greatly reduce the cost of germanium as a cell material and make it a viable option for solar manufacturing on Earth. (more…)
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