Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A New Twist for Nanopillar Light Collectors

18.11.2010
Sunlight represents the cleanest, greenest and far and away most abundant of all energy sources, and yet its potential remains woefully under-utilized. High costs have been a major deterrant to the large-scale applications of silicon-based solar cells.

Nanopillars – densely packed nanoscale arrays of optically active semiconductors – have shown potential for providing a next generation of relatively cheap and scalable solar cells, but have been hampered by efficiency issues. The nanopillar story, however, has taken a new twist and the future for these materials now looks brighter than ever.

“By tuning the shape and geometry of highly ordered nanopillar arrays of germanium or cadmium sulfide, we have been able to drastically enhance the optical absorption properties of our nanopillars,” says Ali Javey, a chemist who holds joint appointments with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC) at Berkeley.

Javey, a faculty scientist with Berkeley Lab’s Materials Sciences Division and a UC Berkeley professor of electrical engineering and computer science, has been at the forefront of nanopillar research. He and his group were the first to demonstrate a technique by which cadmium sulfide nanopillars can be mass-produced in large-scale flexible modules. In this latest work, they were able to produce nanopillars that absorb light as well or even better than commercial thin-film solar cells, using far less semiconductor material and without the need for anti-reflective coating.

“To enhance the broad-band optical absorption efficiency of our nanopillars we used a novel dual-diameter structure that features a small (60 nanometers) diameter tip with minimal reflectance to allow more light in, and a large (130 nanometers) diameter base for maximal absorbtion to enable more light to be converted into electricity,” Javey says. “This dual-diameter structure absorbed 99-percent of incident visible light, compared to the 85 percent absorbtion by our earlier nanopillars, which had the same diameter along their entire length.”

Theoretical and experimental works have shown that 3-D arrays of semiconductor nanopillars – with well-defined diameter, length and pitch – excel at trapping light while using less than half the semiconductor material required for thin-film solar cells made of compound semiconductors, such as cadmium telluride, and about one-percent of the material used in solar cells made from bulk silicon. But until the work of Javey and his research group, fabricating such nanopillars was a complex and cumbersome procedure.

Javey and his colleagues fashioned their dual diameter nanopillars from molds they made in 2.5 millimeter-thick alumina foil. A two-step anodization process was used to create an array of one micrometer deep pores in the mold with dual diameters – narrow at the top and broad at the bottom. Gold particles were then deposited into the pores to catalyze the growth of the semiconductor nanopillars.

“This process enables fine control over geometry and shape of the single-crystalline nanopillar arrays, without the use of complex epitaxial and/or lithographic processes,” Javey says. “At a height of only two microns, our nanopillar arrays were able to absorb 99-percent of all photons ranging in wavelengths between 300 to 900 nanometers, without having to rely on any anti-reflective coatings.”

The germanium nanopillars can be tuned to absorb infrared photons for highly sensitive detectors, and the cadmium sulfide/telluride nanopillars are ideal for solar cells. The fabrication technique is so highly generic, Javey says, it could be used with numerous other semiconductor materials as well for specific applications. Recently, he and his group demonstrated that the cross-sectional portion of the nanopillar arrays can also be tuned to assume specific shapes – square, rectangle or circle – simply by changing the shape of the template.

“This presents yet another degree of control in the optical absorption properties of nanopillars,” Javey says.

Javey’s dual-diameter nanopillar research was partially funded through the National Science Foundation’s Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS) and through Berkeley Lab LDRD funds.

A paper describing this research appears on-line in the journal NANO Letters under the title “Ordered Arrays of Dual-Diameter Nanopillars for Maximized Optical Absorption.” Co-authoring the paper with Javey were Zhiyong Fan, Rehan Kapadia, Paul Leu,Xiaobo Zhang, Yu-Lun Chueh, Kuniharu Takei, Kyoungsik Yu, Arash Jamshidi, Asghar Rathore, Daniel Ruebusch and Ming Wu.

Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our Website at www.lbl.gov

Additional information:

For more about the research of Ali Javey, visit his Website at http://nano.eecs.berkeley.edu/

Lynn Yarris | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.lbl.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht Basque researchers turn light upside down
23.02.2018 | Elhuyar Fundazioa

nachricht Attoseconds break into atomic interior
23.02.2018 | Max-Planck-Institut für Quantenoptik

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Attoseconds break into atomic interior

A newly developed laser technology has enabled physicists in the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics (jointly run by LMU Munich and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics) to generate attosecond bursts of high-energy photons of unprecedented intensity. This has made it possible to observe the interaction of multiple photons in a single such pulse with electrons in the inner orbital shell of an atom.

In order to observe the ultrafast electron motion in the inner shells of atoms with short light pulses, the pulses must not only be ultrashort, but very...

Im Focus: Good vibrations feel the force

A group of researchers led by Andrea Cavalleri at the Max Planck Institute for Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) in Hamburg has demonstrated a new method enabling precise measurements of the interatomic forces that hold crystalline solids together. The paper Probing the Interatomic Potential of Solids by Strong-Field Nonlinear Phononics, published online in Nature, explains how a terahertz-frequency laser pulse can drive very large deformations of the crystal.

By measuring the highly unusual atomic trajectories under extreme electromagnetic transients, the MPSD group could reconstruct how rigid the atomic bonds are...

Im Focus: Developing reliable quantum computers

International research team makes important step on the path to solving certification problems

Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...

Im Focus: In best circles: First integrated circuit from self-assembled polymer

For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.

In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...

Im Focus: Demonstration of a single molecule piezoelectric effect

Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale

Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

2nd International Conference on High Temperature Shape Memory Alloys (HTSMAs)

15.02.2018 | Event News

Aachen DC Grid Summit 2018

13.02.2018 | Event News

How Global Climate Policy Can Learn from the Energy Transition

12.02.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Basque researchers turn light upside down

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Finnish research group discovers a new immune system regulator

23.02.2018 | Health and Medicine

Attoseconds break into atomic interior

23.02.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>