11 sep 2021 17:35 GMT
SunDrive’s innovation could significantly reduce the cost of solar panels and make the industry much less dependent on silver.
SunDrive, an Australian startup created in a garage, proposes to develop copper solar panels, a technology that could revolutionize the industry, reports Bloomberg.
The company was created by Vince Allen, then a PhD candidate at the University of New South Wales. He had an idea to make solar panels much cheaper: replace the silver that is commonly used to extract electricity with copper, which is abundant and cheap. Allen began work to develop the first device with this technology in the company of his friends in a garage in a suburb of Sydney.
So far SunDrive has managed to raise $ 7.5 million from venture capital investors, including Mike Cannon-Brookes, one of Australia’s richest people, and Shi Zhengrong, a Chinese billionaire known as the ‘King of the Sun’ for his huge role in the solar panel industry. At the same time, the company received more than $ 2 million in grant form from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency.
“The thing about copper is that it is very abundant and generally about 100 times cheaper than silver,” said Allen, now 32 years old. Even after a big rally this year, the metal is trading at just over $ 9,000 a tonne. That same amount of silver would cost almost $ 770,000. At the same time, it should be noted that the solar industry will need more and more silver as ‘green’ technologies continue to flourish, which could raise their price even further.
About 95% of solar panels are built with photovoltaic cells made from silicon wafers. To extract the electrical current from the cells, it is necessary to fuse them with metal contacts. For a long time silver was the metal of choice because it is easy to work with and very stable.