Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Photonics: A light choice

09.02.2011
Solar cells can be made thinner and lighter with the help of aluminum particles

Solar cells are a key technology in the drive toward cleaner energy production. Unfortunately, solar technology is not yet economically competitive and the cost of solar cells needs to be brought down.


Schematic illustration of a silicon solar cell (a-Si:H) sandwiched between aluminum (Al) and transparent indium tin oxide (ITO) electrical contacts. Aluminum nanoparticles on the top (gray) enhance the absorption of light.

One way to overcome this problem is to reduce the amount of expensive semiconductor material used, but thin-film solar cells tend to have lower performance compared with conventional solar cells. Yuriy Akimov and Wee Shing Koh at the A*STAR Institute of High Performance Computing[1],[2] have now improved the light conversion efficiency of thin-film solar cells by depositing aluminum particles on the cell surface.

Metallic nanoparticles can direct light better into the solar cell and prevent light from escaping. In conventional ‘thick-film’ solar cells, the nanoparticles would have little effect because all the light is absorbed by the film due to its thickness. For thin films, however, the nanoparticles can make a big difference. Their scattering increases the duration the light stays in the film, bringing the total absorption of light up to a level comparable with that for conventional solar cells. ”The strategy allows us to reduce the production costs of solar cells by several times and makes photovoltaics more competitive with respect to other forms of power generation,” says Akimov.

The researchers modeled the light absorption efficiency of solar cells for various nanoparticle materials and sizes. In particular, they compared the properties of silver versus aluminum nanoparticles. In most studies on the subject, silver particles have been preferred. These have optical resonances in the visible part of the spectrum that are even better at focusing the light into the solar cell. Unfortunately, there is a tradeoff: the optical resonances also cause the absorption of light by the nanoparticles, which means the solar cell is less efficient.

In the case of silver, this resonance is right in the key part of the solar spectrum, so that light absorption is considerable. But not so for aluminum nanoparticles, where these resonances are outside the important part of the solar spectrum. Furthermore, the aluminum particles handle oxidation well and their properties change little with variations in shape and size. And more importantly, their scattering properties are robust in comparison with silver nanoparticles. “We found that nanoparticles made of aluminum perform better than those made of other metals in enhancing light trapping in thin-film solar cells,” says Akimov. “We believe aluminum particles can help make thin-film solar cells commercially viable.”

The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute of High Performance Computing.

Journal information

[1] Akimov, Y.A. & Koh, W.S. Design of plasmonic nanoparticles for efficient subwavelength light trapping in thin-film solar cells. Plasmonics. Published online: 22 Oct 2010 | DOI: 10.1007/s11468-010-9181-4

[2] Akimov, Y A. & Koh, W.S. Resonant and nonresonant plasmonic nanoparticle enhancement for thin-film silicon solar cells. Nanotechnology 21, 235201 (2010).

Lee Swee Heng | Research asia research news
Further information:
http://www.research.a-star.edu.sg/research/6274
http://www.researchsea.com

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht WSU research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries
28.02.2017 | Washington State University

nachricht Researchers pave the way for ionotronic nanodevices
23.02.2017 | Aalto University

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: Safe glide at total engine failure with ELA-inside

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded after a glide flight with an Airbus A320 in ditching on the Hudson River. All 155 people on board were saved.

On January 15, 2009, Chesley B. Sullenberger was celebrated world-wide: after the two engines had failed due to bird strike, he and his flight crew succeeded...

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New technology offers fast peptide synthesis

28.02.2017 | Life Sciences

WSU research advances energy savings for oil, gas industries

28.02.2017 | Power and Electrical Engineering

Who can find the fish that makes the best sound?

28.02.2017 | Information Technology

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>