Energy infrastructure is becoming more and more critical each day. With climate change, the need for renewable energy sources, and the increasing demand for power worldwide, it’s crucial that we find ways to keep up with everyone’s needs. One way of doing this is by improving our semiconductor technology.
1. Solar Power
With the population growing and power generation needing a boost, solar energy is a great candidate for renewable energy. Solar cells are semiconductor devices that convert photons from sunlight into electricity. To make it more efficient, scientists have been looking at ways to improve the energy efficiency of these cells by changing their bandgap. The bandgap is the difference between the highest allowed electron state and the lowest in a single atom or molecule. By increasing this gap, scientists can create more powerful cells.
Solar cells use semiconductors to convert sunlight into electricity. Because of this, solar power is becoming one of the most reliable forms of renewable energy in the world.
As mentioned, renewable energy sources are becoming increasingly important. Solar power is slowly becoming the most popular renewable energy source, with many people taking steps to personally change their power consumption habits to include this form of sustainable energy. Luckily for these individuals, the semiconductor industry has worked diligently to improve solar cell devices and make them more efficient.
2. Energy Storage
As time goes by and power consumption grows, energy storage will become even more critical than it is now. One example of this growing trend is the Tesla Powerwall. The Powerwall is a large battery made from Lithium-Ion cells. These cells make Tesla cars go, so it makes sense that they would be able to help with energy storage as well.
The first thing we need to do to understand how semiconductors improve energy storage is to know what a capacitor does. A capacitor stores electricity using two conducting surfaces separated by an insulator. They’re often used in electronic devices for short-term power outages but can also be used as primary batteries or more extensive scale energy storage. Because of their ability to store electricity, capacitors are used in many different energy storage devices.
3. EV Charging
Electric vehicles (EVs) are another growing source of power. With the increase in people commuting longer distances, EVs are becoming easier to travel. Semiconductors systems can be used with any car with a chargeable battery (electricity powers the vehicle). Still, Tesla is also working on their proprietary supercharger system, which charges EVs at an incredibly fast rate! This supercharger system uses a 480-volt semiconductor switch mode power supply to convert the wall current into 12,000 volts. This incredibly high voltage is then transferred through a huge cable to a rectifier and inverter, which converts it back down to DC levels so that the batteries can then be charged at around 400 amps.
With semiconductors being used in renewable energy applications, power storage devices, and EV charging systems, engineers have found a way to improve these technologies so much by taking advantage of the amazing properties of semiconductor switches. By trying to maximize the efficiency of solar cells or find a cheaper alternative for batteries, engineers can accomplish so much more than intended with their improvements on semiconductors.