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Why a Moore's Law For Green Tech Doesn't Compute


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solar cells

These solar cells are made from silicon wafers, but silicon semiconductor improvements described by Moore's Law do not apply readily to clean-energy technologies.

Credit: Martin LaMonica / CNet

Expecting green technology to follow a Moore's Law-type axiom is a formula for disappointment, according to Martin LaMonica.

While acknowledging that Moore's Law "serves as a good mental model, an inspiration for rapid technology improvement," LaMonica notes that "there are some fundamental differences between converting energy into useful work and the miniaturization of semiconductors predicted by Moore's Law." Unlike the evolution of information technology, which has progressed by leaps and bounds, energy transitions occur over the course of many decades. In addition, LaMonica points out that miniaturization does not necessarily translate into benefits for energy technologies, as it has for computers. For example, a solar cell has to be more efficient in converting light into electrical power and be less expensive to build and install, but shrinking it down reduces the light capture area.

Still, LaMonica expects an upgrade in energy storage performance since many researchers and engineers are exploring various pathways in that area. "Those performance improvements set the bar for future research and deployment and the technology as a whole improves, but in most cases in energy it just takes longer," he notes.

From CNet
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