Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Energetic nanoparticles swing sunlight into electricity

21.02.2008
The electrons in nanoparticles of noble metal oscillate together apace with the frequency of the light. This phenomenon can be exploited to produce better and cheaper solar cells, scientists at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have shown.

Electricity-generating solar cells are one of the most attractive alternatives for creating a long-term sustainable energy system, but thus far solar cells have not been able to compete economically with fossil fuels. Researchers are now looking at how nanotechnology can contribute in bringing down the cost.

Solar cells are constructed of layers that absorb sunlight and convert it to electrical current. Thinner solar cells can yield both cheaper and more plentiful electricity than today's cells, if their capacity to absorb sunlight is optimized.

One way to enhance the absorption of the solar harvesting material in a solar cell is to make use of nanoparticles of noble metal. Carl Hägglund at Chalmers has looked at how this can be done in his recently completed doctoral dissertation.

The particles involved have special optical properties owing to the fact that their electrons oscillate back and forth together at the same rate as the frequency of the light, that is, the color of the light. The particles catch the light as tiny antennas and via the oscillations the energy is passed on as electricity. These oscillations, plasmons, are very forceful at certain so-called plasmon resonance frequencies, which in turn are influenced by the form, size, and surroundings of the particles.

"What we've done is to make use of nanotechnology to produce the particles and we've therefore been able to determine the properties and see how they can enhance the absorption of light of different colors,"

says Carl Hägglund.

In the context of solar cells, the great challenge is to efficiently convert the energy that is absorbed in the electron oscillation to energy in the form of electricity.

"We show that it is precisely the oscillations of the particles that yield the energy, how it is transmitted to the material and becomes electricity. It might have turned out, for example, that the oscillations simply generated heat instead," says Carl Hägglund.

The efficiency of the best solar cells today is already very high. The possibility of achieving even better solar cells therefore lies in using less material and in lowering production costs.

With solar cells of specially designed nanoparticles of gold, which is what Carl Hägglund has looked at, a layer only a few nanometers thick is required for the particles to be able to absorb light in an efficient way.

The dissertation examines the effect of nanoparticles of noble metal on two different types of solar cells, which can be said to represent two extremes. In one type of solar cell the light is absorbed in molecules on a surface, and in the other type deep inside the material.

The experimental and theoretical results show that the particles can help transmit the light's energy to useful electricity in several different ways and that it's possible to enhance the absorption of solar cells both on the surface and deep inside via different mechanisms.

This work has been carried out within the framework of a materials science research program (PhotoNano) funded by the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Research.

For more information, please contact: Carl Hägglund, Chemical Physics, Department of Applied Physics, Chalmers University of Technology,
phone: +46 (0)31-772 33 76; cell phone: +46 (0)738-154696.
carl.hagglund@chalmers.se
Supervisor: Professor Bengt Kasemo, Chemical Physics, Department of Applied Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, phone: +46 (0)31 772 33 70; cell phone: +46 (0)708-28 26 01 kasemo@fy.chalmers.se

Pressofficer: Sofie Hebrand; Tel:+4631-772 84 64; Fax:+4631-772 59 44; sofie.hebrand@chalmers.se

Sofie Hebrand | idw
Further information:
http://chalmersnyheter.chalmers.se/chalmers03/english/Article.jsp?article=11030
http://publications.lib.chalmers.se/cpl/record/index.xsql?pubid=67239

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Improved stability of plastic light-emitting diodes
19.04.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Polymerforschung

nachricht Intelligent components for the power grid of the future
18.04.2018 | Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel

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: Spider silk key to new bone-fixing composite

University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.

Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.

Im Focus: Writing and deleting magnets with lasers

Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.

Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...

Im Focus: Gamma-ray flashes from plasma filaments

Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.

The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...

Im Focus: Basel researchers succeed in cultivating cartilage from stem cells

Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.

Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...

Im Focus: Like a wedge in a hinge

Researchers lay groundwork to tailor drugs for new targets in cancer therapy

In the fight against cancer, scientists are developing new drugs to hit tumor cells at so far unused weak points. Such a “sore spot” is the protein complex...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Invitation to the upcoming "Current Topics in Bioinformatics: Big Data in Genomics and Medicine"

13.04.2018 | Event News

Unique scope of UV LED technologies and applications presented in Berlin: ICULTA-2018

12.04.2018 | Event News

IWOLIA: A conference bringing together German Industrie 4.0 and French Industrie du Futur

09.04.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Magnetic nano-imaging on a table top

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Start of work for the world's largest electric truck

20.04.2018 | Interdisciplinary Research

Atoms may hum a tune from grand cosmic symphony

20.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>