Natural resource limitations to terawatt-scale solar cells

Coby S. Tao, Jiechao Jiang, Meng Tao

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


The predicted energy demand will reach 28 TW by 2050 and 46 TW by 2100. The deployment of solar cells as a source of electricity will have to expand to a scale of tens of peak terawatts in order to become a noticeable source of energy in the future. Of the current commercial and developmental solar cell technologies, the majority have natural resource limitations that prevent them from reaching a terawatt scale. These limitations include high energy input for crystalline-Si cells, limited material production for GaAs cells, and material scarcity for CdTe, CIGS, dye-sensitized, crystalline-Si, and thin-film Si cells. In this paper, we examine these limitations under the best scenarios for CdTe, CIGS, GaAs, dye-sensitized, and crystalline-Si solar cells. Without significant technological breakthroughs, these technologies combined would meet only a few percentage points (∼2%) of our energy demand in 2100.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3176-3180
Number of pages5
JournalSolar Energy Materials and Solar Cells
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Energy
  • Material constraint
  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar cell

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Surfaces, Coatings and Films


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