It might be time to welcome our robot overlords to the green tech revolution. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed a jukebox-like robot that can grow and analyze solar cells in nearly record time. In just 35 minutes, one of NREL’s ‘bots can build a semi-conductor on a six inch square plate of flexible metal, glass, or plastic. And that’s not all — the robot can also measure light absorption, spot glitches, and prepare plates for production.
According to PhysOrg, the robot “pivots and dishes like a point guard, sifts like a master chef, analyzes like a forensics expert and does it all while maintaining a vacuum seal on the entire process.” Essentially, one of NREL’s robots can perform the same functions as four or five solar labs.
In practical terms, this means that solar companies can hook up their tools to a central NREL robot to see how their technology compares. NREL’s robots can also be used to quickly analyze the effect of different levels of heat, chemicals, and metals in a solar cell — so scientists can eventually build a “perfect” cell. And that means solar could become cost-competitive with fossil fuels sooner than we once thought.