The Future of Solar: Boron and Energy Efficiency

Oct 5, 2021 | Efficient Power Sources, ADVANCED ENERGY, Energy Management

The Future of Solar: Boron and Energy Efficiency

As the world’s energy consumption continues to rise, we are looking for ways to make renewable energy sources more efficient. Energy transition is a hot topic these days, and one way that scientists have been working on reducing our dependence on fossil fuels has been through developing more efficient and productive solar panels. Boron plays an integral role in the efficiency of solar panels: Without it, photovoltaic cells would not be able to convert light into electricity as efficiently.

Boron - Solar Power

What are photovoltaics?

A photovoltaic cell is a device that converts sunlight directly into electricity. The most common type of PV cells are made from silicone, so they are often called “silicon solar panels” or just “solar panels.” They are a new and exciting way to power homes without relying on fossil fuels. It has been shown that it can be used in areas where the sun shines for more than six hours per day, like Southeast Asia or Central America. 

Why is Boron used in solar panels?

Solar panels use a semiconductor material to capture light and convert it into usable energy. Two different types of solar cells are used in these materials: amorphous silicon or thin-film deposition. Photovoltaic cells made with either substance require boron for the conversion process. Boron can be added as an antireflection coating on top of the photovoltaic cell surface, increasing its reflectivity – which reduces losses from incident sunlight that doesn’t pass through – or mixed in when manufacturing solar cells themselves so that they include boron atoms within their crystalline structure instead of just on top.

The p-type and n-type silicon in the solar cell is created from an atom with one less electron than is required to form bonds with surrounding atoms. The hole left behind by this missing electron means that there is always a surplus of electrons on the outer energy level, which enables them to move quickly across any potential barrier between semiconductors—or even over small distances within the same layer where they can collide or combine and produce light. P-type silicon is usually made with the help of Boron or Gallium. However, Boron is increasingly being preferred over Gallium, making it the go-to option for doping.

Boron is a rare earth mineral that has many beneficial properties. It can be used in nuclear reactors for electricity production or as an additive to steel and aluminium alloys, strengthening those materials’ resistance against corrosion when exposed to water. Hence, its versatile usage and current technological research make it a lucrative option.

Understanding energy transition

With energy transition, a transformation of global energy sector from fossil-based systems to renewable sources is taking place. But it has not been without its challenges: as investors and companies seek greater clarity in accounting for long-term climate risks and opportunities with sustainable business strategies, businesses are adapting by implementing new technologies that enable this change.

Energy Transition has been a long-time coming. Fossil fuel use for energy generation was the only option available to humanity up until 1839 when James Watt introduced his invention, the first practical steam engine that had more than doubled efficiency from its predecessor models. Even though this made coal widely used as an energy resource, it wasn’t too much later – in 1898 – before Rudolf Diesel invented diesel engines which followed suit with even greater efficiencies and fuelled by oil instead of coal.

When Energy Transition is ready, we can expect major changes to our society: transportation will run on renewable fuels. The energy transition is a worldwide movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the use of renewable sources and increase efficiency. The energy transition is a worldwide movement to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by the use of renewable sources and increase efficiency.

What can Boron do for Energy Transition?

Since Boron has many more uses in different industries, it’s essential to ensure we have enough borax available when transitioning away from fossil fuels. As power grids move towards using less coal and natural gas as energy sources, society will need to rely on other sources like nuclear power plants and renewable energies, including wind turbines and photovoltaic devices. Building new factories for these materials could take years – time which our planet doesn’t have.

However, boron is already readily available with plenty of reserves to make up the difference in energy production when transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards more sustainable sources of power. Boron can also be used as a building block for other industrial materials like glasses or ceramics, which will allow it to reach markets that were not accessible before without affecting its primary use within photovoltaic devices. It means we don’t need new factories to produce borax – find better ways to extract more from existing mines.

How does energy efficiency work?

To date, solar panels have been typically made out of silicon; these are expensive and require lots of time & resources because they’re built to order by specialized teams of scientists. Energy efficiency is achieved by using boron in solar photovoltaic cells because it can be manufactured at a lower cost and without specialized equipment, which makes for an easier transition to renewable energy sources like wind & solar energy.

Boron can be used for more than just one thing – it’s a key ingredient in glass, detergents, and fertilizers. Energy companies are now looking into how they can also use boron to make better-performing photovoltaic cells. Borax has been widely used as an additive to natural gas production because its low cost makes it easy to produce; this means that there aren’t many trade barriers when we start using boron on a large scale. The increase in supply through mining and recycling could lead to lower prices worldwide, resulting in increased demand from consumers who want greener solutions for their homes & businesses.

Boron can be used for storing solar energy

In a world of ever-increasing demand for energy, there’s no shortage in the amount we need to produce. With so much going into producing this power and then transporting it long distances across continents, many people are looking at alternative methods that may not be as wasteful or expensive. One solution is Boron – a material with potential benefits when used within solar cells due to its ability to absorb electrons from photons during exposure before transferring them onto an electron acceptor.

Another benefit is increased efficiency because converting sunlight directly through borosilicate glass panels leads to less heat being generated than traditional silicon photovoltaic technology. This cycle would solve the long-range transport and storage problem, which are two critical issues of a prospective solar energy economy. Hence, Boron is energetically favorable and safe in every way.

While nuclear energy still has its drawbacks, solar energy is the one area where we can make some real progress by increasing energy efficiency. Materials like Boron are the next step in higher efficiency that can possibly reform the solar industry if theoretical research provides any proof.

Boron is also popularly used for thermal heating applications. Borosilicate glass is a material that helps to focus and capture solar energy in the form of heat. It is most often used as the outer layer for skylights or greenhouses, but can also be found lining pools or hot tubs. 

This material is also used for more complex applications that can be found in your home appliances like dishwashers, clothes dryers and water heaters.

Future Outlook

We can say that Boron is going to be instrumental in Decarbonization and help photovoltaic cells reach new energy efficiency heights. With increased focus by the EU on procuring more and more (near) rare earth metals such as Boron, the move towards energy transition will gradually help foster progress in reaching lower carbon emissions.

Boron and Chernobyl
Nuclear Energy, ADVANCED ENERGY

Boron and Chernobyl

Boron (B₁₀), which comprises about 20% of elemental boron, is one of the best neutron absorbers. It is dissolved in the cooling water of power plants to control the chain reaction, to absorb enough neutrons to remove excess reactivity in PWR plants. In both BWRs and PWRs, it is used in control rods to control reactivity and change the power shape of the core.

Boron and EV Batteries
Batteries and Capacitors, Company Profiles, RESEARCH

Company Profile of Li-S Energy Limited – Boron Battery

Li-S Energy Limited, established in 2019, is an Australian company, a joint venture between Li-S Energy's founding shareholders, PPK Group, BNNT Technology, and Deakin University. Its purpose is to develop a new battery technology that incorporates Boron Nitride Nanotubes, which are more efficient, lower cost, and greener than current batteries for markets including automotive, defense and aviation.

Boron Research Areas
RESEARCH

Boron Research Areas

Boron Research ranges from commercial technologies to extensive studies in chemistry, notably boron nitride nanotubes and hydrogen-boron fusion. In commercial endeavors, boron is a new-age material stock driving innovation and performance in various fields.