I am a sucker for data visualization graphics, especially if the data involved energy innovation.
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Needless to say, I was thrilled to discover a dynamic mapping of the geographic history of thin-film solar cell innovation.
A photovoltaic cell consists of two or more layers of semi-conducting material, most commonly silicon. When the material is exposed to light, electrical charges are generated and conducted away by metal contacts as direct current. The electrical output from a single cell is small, so multiple cells are connected together and encapsulated (usually behind glass) to form a module or panel.
Although monocrystalline silicon cell technology currently dominates the market, thin-film technology for solar cells is commonly considered to be the most promising candidate for significantly reducing the cost and improving the performance of commercial solar power systems over the long term. Thin-film solar technologies can be manufactured at lower cost than crystalline silicon technologies and typically offer higher module efficiencies than amorphous silicon.
The patent map, which was created by researchers at the University of Amsterdam, shows the intensity and quality of patent activity related to a key material used in thin-film solar cells from 1974 to 2012.
The material is called CuInSe2 – copper (Cu), indium (In) and selenium (Se). CuInSe2 was first synthesized in 1953, and proposed as a photovoltaic material in 1974.
The map – and the paper describing it – tells part of the story of what has happened since 1974.
Patenting began in the United States and slowly migrated to Europe and eventually to Japan.
Take a gander for yourself here.