Innovation That Matters

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Fully circular PV solar cells

Springwise ChangeNOW

The open-source design is part of the creation of distributed production networks

Spotted: In 2023, for the first time, global investment in solar energy will surpass the amount invested in oil production. Knowing that much of the global community seeks a more sustainable way of life, Delft-based Biosphere Solar is harnessing the power of the masses to create a circular photovoltaic (PV) market. 

Current solar panels are relatively durable, working well for around 25 years. Once something breaks or they stop working, however, the panels that are a cornerstone of solar energy become highly unsustainable. Nearly impossible to recycle because of the laminate glue used to hold the glass panels and photovoltaic cells together, end-of-life solar panels are generally shredded for use as a filler in concrete or dumped in landfill.  

To tackle this, Biosphere Solar has created an open-source design that promotes repair and contains room for technology upgrades as they become available. The company’s panels use an edge seal, rather than laminate, to hold the glass panels and PV cells together. Additionally, each PV cell is attached individually, making it possible to replace a single broken cell rather than have to dump the entire panel. 

Another important aspect of the design is that it makes local production and maintenance possible, helping to redress the imbalance between wealthy and developing nations in their ability to access renewable energy sources. 

Because it is open source, the design encourages continual improvements, and the company asks creators to submit their own designs for possible inclusion in future iterations of the panel.

Currently field testing the panels, Biosphere Solar hopes to have its product commercially available by 2024.  

Solar energy is becoming such an important part of the global economy that Springwise has spotted innovations improving almost every aspect of the industry, from a new design that also provides clean drinking water to an industrial-scale recycling facility that captures 95 per cent of usable materials from the old panels.

Written By: Keely Khoury



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