Silicon is readily available, easy to process, highly stable and non-toxic. It is also one of the best materials for making solar cells. The high quality and purity of silicon needed for fabricating the most efficient silicon-based solar cells, however, has made it difficult to lower production costs for this renewable energy technology.
One approach that could reduce costs is to use a microscopically thin film of silicon with a textured surface to enhance light absorption. Navab Singh at the A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics and co-workers have now highlighted several key factors affecting the power conversion efficiency of surface-textured thin-film solar cells and come up with a ‘nanopillar’ design that maximizes light absorption and minimizes production costs.
The best performing thin-film silicon solar cells at present have efficiencies that are about half that of conventional bulk silicon solar cells. “By investigating a variety of appropriate vertical nanopillar designs we can enhance the light-trapping and -collection efficiency of thin films to compensate for the efficiency loss caused by reduced material quality and quantity,” says Singh.
The researchers investigated various factors that might affect the performance of a thin-film solar cell. These factors include the diameter and length of the nanopillar, as well as the spacing between nanopillars (see image). Similarly important is the design of the positively and negatively charged layers in the solar cells that are needed to separate the electrical carriers created by the absorbed light.
The researchers’ simulations showed that the thickness of the negatively charged layer on the outer side of the pillars should be as thin as possible in order to reduce ‘parasitic’ absorption—the annihilation of light-generated carriers before they cross the junction between layers where they would contribute to electrical power generation. They also found that an axial junction design in which the junction between positive and negative layers is confined to the very top of the pillars leads to a higher open-circuit voltage compared with more conventional radial junction structures in which the negative layer wraps around the entire pillars. Yet they found the converse to be true for the open-circuit current.
Singh and his co-workers therefore show that a balance of these factors is needed in order to optimize designs for light-to-power conversion efficiency in surface-textured thin-film structures, which could eventually lead to thin-film silicon solar cells that are able to match the efficiency of the more expensive single-crystalline silicon solar cells.
The A*STAR-affiliated researchers contributing to this research are from the Institute of MicroelectronicsReferences
Shape matters when light meets atom
05.12.2016 | Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore
Climate cycles may explain how running water carved Mars' surface features
02.12.2016 | Penn State
Have you ever wondered how you see the world? Vision is about photons of light, which are packets of energy, interacting with the atoms or molecules in what...
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...
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...
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,...
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...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering
05.12.2016 | Materials Sciences
05.12.2016 | Power and Electrical Engineering