As the price of fossil fuels rises amid less availability, scientists and engineers are growing more interested in the promise of solar cells to produce electricity.

Silver paste is used in 90 percent of all crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the most common type of solar cell. Around the world, solar arrays are being tested for large and small-scale electricity production. In Europe, photovoltaic systems commonly are used to power private homes and local businesses. South Korea is constructing photovoltaic electric power plants to provide significant sources of electricity for the nation’s power grid. In the United States, nationwide stores such as Macy’s and Wal-Mart are installing photovoltaic systems on the roofs of their buildings to contributing up to 40 percent of their power needs. Photovoltaic systems are simple and provide immediately useful power with no pollution.

Silver is used in another way to generate electricity by reflecting and concentrating solar energy onto collectors containing salts which are used to run generators. Near Barstow, California, for example, 1,926 silver-coated mirrors reflect solar heat onto black-coated stainless steel tubes atop a 300-foot tower. This heats the tubes and the nitrate salt inside them to over 1050 degrees F. The scalding hot salt is then piped to boilers, turning water to steam which drives steam turbines that run electric generators. They generate electricity to power 10,000 homes.

Source: The Silver Institute

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