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
Hope to discover sure signs of life on Mars? New research says look for the element vanadium
22.09.2017 | University of Kansas
22.09.2017 | Forschungszentrum MATHEON ECMath
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...
19.09.2017 | Event News
12.09.2017 | Event News
06.09.2017 | Event News
22.09.2017 | Life Sciences
22.09.2017 | Medical Engineering
22.09.2017 | Physics and Astronomy