By 2015 (6 years from now), amorphous silicon photovoltaic technology will use more than $900 million in silane gas and other silicon-based materials (sand will be a good thing to have a lot of).
It used to be that the crystalline silicon photovoltaic materials were the hot technology (as seen in the solar panels developed for space flight and the early PV panels used on home and business installations) for electricity generation.
But now, the thin-film PV materials are strong light absorbers and only need to be about 1 micrometer thick..... so the material costs are significantly reduced. The most common materials for thin-film PV are amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride (CdTe), and copper indium (gallium) diselenide (CIS or CIGS).
Each of these three is suitable for large-area deposition (on substrates of about 1-meter wide) and thus are suitable for high-volume manufacturing. The thin-film semiconductor layers are deposited onto either coated glass or stainless steel sheets.
Research organizations and manufacturers are now exploring how to apply this chemistry to photovoltaic-capable inks--that when applied and dry, will generate a current when exposed to light and other inks that will conduct a current. This enables the high-volume printing of circuits and electricity generating components.
It's technological advances such as the one described above that will raise the bar on solar and alternate energy electricity generating processes!
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