Photovoltaic cells are currently made from two materials, Bullock explains, one that's expensive but efficient and one that's cheap but inefficient. Caltech researchers have apparently invented a cheap and efficient cell by literally growing it in a lab:
The material is relatively easy to produce and uses 99 percent less silicon than a regular solar panel. Despite the small amount of material, the silicon wire panels have very high solar-absorption rates, with efficiency levels much higher than current polymer film panels. Theoretically, more panels could be produced for less money using this process, which would bring the cost per watt for solar energy way down.
Bill Gates has meanwhile penned a Washington Post op-ed with DuPont CEO Charles Holliday announcing the American Energy Innovation Council. The group will advocate for increased federal R&D on clean energy technology and has already filled its roster with big names:
Many independent groups like The Breakthrough Institute have been pushing for increased energy R&D funding, but none have the roster of heavy hitters of the council. The new organization lists a herd of other corporate leaders behind the effort including Ursula Burns, Xerox CEO, green tech venture capitalist John Doerr, and General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt. Also listed is Norm Augustine, former CEO of Lockheed Martin and head of the Obama Administration's blue-ribbon panel on NASA and the future of human spaceflight.