Using a heat-resistant device, made of tungsten and alumina layers, researchers from Aalborg University have found that the device can absorb the sun's broad spectrum radiation and convert it to electricity
The photovoltaic (PV) cells in traditional solar cells convert sunlight efficiently within a narrow range of wavelengths determined by the material used in the PV cells. This limits their efficiency, as long wavelengths of sunlight are not converted at all and the energy of short wavelength light is largely wasted. Scientists have sought to increase the efficiency of photovoltaics by creating "multi-junction" solar cells, made from several different semiconductor materials that absorb at varying wavelengths of light. The problem is, such multi-junction cells are expensive to make.
The schematic energy flow of standard and solar thermophotovoltaic (STPV) systems. In standard solar cells, a PV cell is directly illuminated by the sun. Whereas in STPV systems (b), an absorber placed between the sun and PV cell is heated by absorbing the broad solar spectrum. A thermal emitter connected to the absorber converts the heat into narrowband thermal radiation that illuminates the PV cell. The inset represents the schematic of the multilayer broadband absorber device.
Credit: Manohar Chirumamilla
Broadband solar absorption previously has been achieved using metal-insulator-metal (or MIM) resonators, which consist of an insulator sandwiched between a thick bottom and a thin top layer, each made of metals like chromium and gold. The metal components used in MIM resonators have relatively low melting points--temperatures that are reduced further when the materials are in very thin layers, as in the resonators, because of a phenomenon called melting point depression, in which the melting point of a material scales down as the dimensions of the material decrease. The metals in standard MIM resonators melt at around 500 degrees Celsius, hindering their usefulness in solar cells.
Now a group of researchers in Denmark have discovered an alternative method to capture a broad spectrum of sunlight using a heat-resistant device made of tungsten and alumina layers that can be fabricated using inexpensive and widely available film-deposition techniques. The researchers describe their work and the new material in a paper published this week in the journal Optical Materials Express, from The Optical Society (OSA).
"They are resistant to heat, including thermal shock, and exhibit stable physical and chemical properties at high temperatures," explained Manohar Chirumamilla of Aalborg University in Denmark, the first author of the new paper. This allows the absorbers to maintain their structural properties at very high temperatures.
In experiments, the new absorbers were shown to operate at a temperature of 800 degrees Celsius and to absorb light of wavelengths ranging from 300 to 1750 nanometers, that is, from ultraviolet (UV) to near-infrared wavelengths.
"MIM resonators absorbing in the spectral region from UV to near-infrared can be directly employed in different applications, such as solar TPV [thermophotovoltaic] /TPV systems and solar thermal systems," Chirumamilla said. "Other potential applications include in so-called tower power plants, where concentrated solar light generates steam to drive a generator."
"This is the first step in utilizing the energy of the sun in a more efficient way than with current solar cells," he added. "Using an emitter in contact with our absorber, the generated heat can then be used to illuminate a solar cell--which can then function more efficiently when it is placed directly in the sun."
About Optical Materials Express
Optical Materials Express (OMEx) is an open-access journal focusing on the synthesis, processing and characterization of materials for applications in optics and photonics. OMEx, which launched in April 2011, primarily emphasizes advances in novel optical materials, their properties, modeling, synthesis and fabrication techniques; how such materials contribute to novel optical behavior; and how they enable new or improved optical devices. For more information, visit: OSA Publishing.
About The Optical Society
Founded in 1916, The Optical Society (OSA) is the leading professional organization for scientists, engineers, students and entrepreneurs who fuel discoveries, shape real-life applications and accelerate achievements in the science of light. Through world-renowned publications, meetings and membership initiatives, OSA provides quality research, inspired interactions and dedicated resources for its extensive global network of optics and photonics experts. For more information, visit osa.org/100.
Rebecca Andersen | EurekAlert!
'Super yeast' has the power to improve economics of biofuels
18.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Engineers reveal fabrication process for revolutionary transparent sensors
14.10.2016 | University of Wisconsin-Madison
Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.
"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...
In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.
A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...
By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.
"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...
COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.
In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...
'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.
Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...
14.10.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
12.10.2016 | Event News
21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine
21.10.2016 | Information Technology
21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences