Monday, November 06, 2006

Tech: Photovoltaic revolutions?

Japan’s Sharp Corporation* is investing in a sixfold increase in its production of photovoltaic (solar) cells.

The analysts reckon that corner of Sharp’s business is proving quite profitable. So why not bump it up? – renewable energy is undoubtedly going to be a significant growth area in the next few years.

Other (“second-tier”) electronics manufacturers are also moving in that direction, away from saturation-level consumer-targeted products such as LCD panels – even away from memory chips.

Buried in the report is a hint at spinoffs from increased takeup of a technology. As evident with mobile phones, a technology that experiences a significant surge in use has, down the track, unanticipated effects on the face of society.

Sharp is working to make photovoltaic cells ever thinner, which portends an increasing variety of potential applications. I don’t think we’ll be seeing every device flick out a solar panel that faces the sun, but perhaps flexible – even plastic – cells will proliferate. What about translucency – even transparent cells? One can but speculate.

*Sharp started out nearly a century back making pencils – hence the name.

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