How can nanotechnology improve solar cells
Using nanoparticles in the
manufacture of solar cells has the following benefits:
manufacturing costs as a result of using a low temperature process similar to
printing instead of the high temperature vacuum deposition process typically used
to produce conventional cells made with crystalline semiconductor
installation costs achieved by producing flexible rolls instead
of rigid crystalline panels. Cells made from semiconductor thin films will
also have this characteristic.
available nanotechnology solar cells are not as efficient as traditional ones, however their lower cost offsets this. In the long term nanotechnology
versions should both be lower cost and, using
should be able to reach higher efficiency levels than conventional ones.
Nanotechnology Applications under Development
Researchers at Michigan Technological University have
developed a honeycomb like structure
of graphene in which the graphene sheets are held apart by lithium
carbonate. They have used this "3D graphene" to replace the platinum in a
dye sensitized solar cell and achieved 7.8 percent conversion of sunlight to
Researchers at Los Alamos National
Lab have demonstrated a solar cell that uses a
copper indium selenide sulfide
quantum dots. Unlike quantum dots containing lead or
cadium the copper based quantum dot is non-toxc as well
as low cost.
Researchers at MIT are studying
cells made from single molecule thick sheets of graphene
and materials such as molybdenum diselenide. They are
predicting that this type of solar cells could produce up to 1000 times as
much more power for a given weigh of material than conventional solar cells.
They have completed computer modeling and are working on building the solar
Researchers at MIT have developed a solar cell using
with zinc oxide nanowires. The researchers believe that this method will
allow the production of low cost flexible solar cells at high enough
efficiency to be competive.
Researchers are using a method called Aerotaxy to grow
on gold nanoparticles. They plan to use self assembly techniques to
align the nanowires on a substrate; forming a solar cell or other electrical
devices. The gold nanoparticles replace the silicon substrate on which
conventional semiconductor based solar cells are built.
Researchers at Princeton University have developed
a solar cell that almost eliminates losses due to reflection of light.
They use a 30 nanometer thick
gold nanomesh (a layer with a regular pattern of 175 nanometer
diameter holes) along with an active layer thinner than the wavelength
of light. They found that this combination traps most of the light in
the solar cell, increasing the efficiency of the cell.
Researchers at Duke University are
developing another method to reduce losses due to the
reflection of light. In this method the combination of
nanocubes scattered over a thin gold layer reduce
losses due to reflection.
Researchers at the Nies Bohr Institute have
determined that sunlight
can be concentrated in nanowires due to a resonance effect. This
effect can result in more efficient solar cells, allowing more of the
energy from the sun to be converted to electricity.
inexpensive solar cell designed to produce hydrogen is being developed
using iron oxide nanoparticles.
Combining silver nanowires, titanium dioixde
nanoparticles and a polymer that absorbs infrared light to make a
solar cell that is about 70
percent transparent to visible light, allowing it to be used in windows.
Flexiable layers of nanoporous germaniun to produce
lightweight solar cells for mobile applications.
Titanium dioxide nanotubes
filled with a polymer to form low cost solar cells
lead selenide quantum dots with titanium dioxide to form higher higher efficiency solar cells.
Combining carbon nanotubes and buckyballs to produce solar cells. Some
researchers combine the
nanotubes and buckyballs with a polymer, while another group of researchers
are only using nanotubes and
buckyballs. A third research group is also using
nanotubes and buckballs
along with graphene to build a solar cell.
Researchers at Stanford University have found a way to trap light in organic solar cells. The idea is that the longer light is in the solar cell the more electrons
will be generated. The researchers found that by making the
organic layer much thinner than the wavelength of light and sandwiching the organic layer between a mirror layer and a rough layer the light stayed in the solar cell longer and excited more electrons.
nanoparticles applied in a low temperature printing process that results in
low cost solar cells.
to lower costs.
Using light absorbing
embedded in a flexible polymer film is another method being developed to produce low cost
flexible solar panels.
Using light absorbing graphene sheets to
produce low cost solar panels
Organic solar cells that are self
Organic solar cells that can be applied by
painting, possibly turning the surface of a car into a solar cell.
Researchers at Lawrence Berkeley have
demonstrated an inexpensive process for making
solar cells. These solar cells are composed of cadmium sulfide nanowires coated with copper sulfide.
Solar cells that can be installed as a
coating on windows or other building materials, referred to as "Building
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Earl Boysen of Hawk's Perch Technical Writing, LLC and
UnderstandingNano.com. You can find him on