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HEAT WAVE 2012: Professor aims at cheaper solar energy

By: Alyssa Fenske Email
By: Alyssa Fenske Email

LA CROSSE,Wis (WEAU)- With so much sun in the forecast, there’s an effort underway so that it doesn’t go to waste.

A UW-La Crosse physics professor is aiming at making solar power more affordable.

Assistant Professor Seth King is trying to create a new material that would make solar panels cheaper.

Solar panels are not cheap, costing an average of 200 dollars for a 75-100 watt panel said King, but he hopes to change that.

“We are coming up with materials that make solar panels ultimately cheaper. We’re not trying to solve an efficiency problem, but a cost problem,” said King.

King and his research team are using a machine called “Sputter Deposition,” to slam chemical particles together to create a whole new material.

They are trying to create a zinc, copper, or magnesium based material to replace the expensive layer of indium that is common in solar panels.

“We’ve had some success in the last couple years with a few materials that show promise,” said King.

So far, the only replacements found for indium have been toxic said King.

Student researcher Beth Tennyson is working on the latest material made.

“Right now I’m working on a scan. I’m doing reflectivity on a material we just made figuring out what’s in it, and how much of certain elements are in what” said Tennyson.

Soon some of the materials made in the lab will be tested on solar panels.

“Within the next year or so we will be sending off some of our materials to a company that specializes in making solar panels to see if our material is feasible,” said King


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