Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

‘Nanospears’ Could Lead to Better Solar Cells, Lasers, Lighting

13.08.2009
Growing – and precisely aligning – microscopic, spear-shaped zinc oxide crystals on a surface of single-crystal silicon, researchers at Missouri University of Science and Technology may have developed a method to make more efficient solar cells.

Dr. Jay A. Switzer and his colleagues at Missouri S&T report in the journal Chemistry of Materials that their simple, inexpensive process could also lead to new materials for ultraviolet lasers, solid-state lighting and piezoelectric devices.

“It’s kind of like growing rock candy crystals on a string,” says Switzer, the Donald L. Castleman/Foundation for Chemical Research Professor of Discovery at Missouri S&T. But instead of using sugar water and string, Switzer’s team grows the zinc oxide “nanospears” on the single-crystal silicon placed in a beaker filled with an alkaline solution saturated with zinc ions. The process yields tilted, single-crystal, spear-shaped rods that grow out of the silicon surface, like tiny spikes.

The spears are about 100-200 nanometers in diameter – hundreds of times smaller than the width of a human hair – and about 1 micrometer in length. A nanometer – visible only with the aid of a high-power electron microscope – is one billionth of a meter, and some nanomaterials are only a few atoms in size.

The research is reported today (Tuesday, Aug. 11) in the journal’s online ASAP (“as soon as publishable”) section and will appear in an upcoming issue. The complete article, titled “Tilted Epitaxial ZnO Nanospears on Si(001) by Chemical Bath Deposition,” is available on the ASAP website at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/cm9010019.

Zinc oxide is a semiconductor that possesses some unusual physical properties, Switzer says. The material both absorbs and emits light, so it could be used in solar cells to absorb sunshine as well as in lasers or solid-state lighting as an emitter of light.

Silicon is also a semiconductor, but it absorbs light at a different part of the spectrum than zinc oxide. By growing zinc oxide on top of the silicon, “you’re putting two semiconductors on top of each other,” thereby widening the spectrum from which a solar cell could draw light, Switzer says.

“You can absorb more light and possibly get more power out” with a zinc oxide-silicon solar cell, he says.

Previous efforts to grow zinc oxide on silicon have been limited to expensive ultra-high-vacuum methods, and because of silicon’s high reactivity, it’s been impossible to deposit the zinc oxide directly, without the use of a third material as a buffer. In addition, previous attempts to align the two materials epitaxially – or perfectly one on top of the other – have been unsuccessful until now. By tilting the nanospears 51 degrees, Switzer and his team have reduced the mismatch from 40 percent to just 0.2 percent, a near-perfect alignment.

Epitaxially aligning the zinc oxide and silicon is important to ensure higher efficiency, Switzer says.

Switzer’s research is supported through a four-year, $700,000 grant from the Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, Materials Sciences and Engineering Division.

Switzer’s co-authors for the Chemistry of Materials paper are Guojun Mu and Rakesh V. Gudavarthy, both graduate students in the Chemistry Department at Missouri S&T, and Dr. Elizabeth A. Kulp, a postdoctoral associate at Missouri S&T.

Andrew Careaga | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.mst.edu

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Energy hybrid: Battery meets super capacitor
01.12.2016 | Technische Universität Graz

nachricht Tailor-Made Membranes for the Environment
30.11.2016 | Forschungszentrum Jülich

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Novel silicon etching technique crafts 3-D gradient refractive index micro-optics

A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.

Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...

Im Focus: Quantum Particles Form Droplets

In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.

“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...

Im Focus: MADMAX: Max Planck Institute for Physics takes up axion research

The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.

The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...

Im Focus: Molecules change shape when wet

Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water

In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...

Im Focus: Fraunhofer ISE Develops Highly Compact, High Frequency DC/DC Converter for Aviation

The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.

Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ICTM Conference 2017: Production technology for turbomachine manufacturing of the future

16.11.2016 | Event News

Innovation Day Laser Technology – Laser Additive Manufacturing

01.11.2016 | Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

 
Latest News

UTSA study describes new minimally invasive device to treat cancer and other illnesses

02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering

Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product

02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

What do Netflix, Google and planetary systems have in common?

02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>