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Science Daily - Nanowires fuel breakthrough for solar energy

DCN Corp® - Researchers from Lund University, Sweden, have shown how nano-wires could pave the way for more efficient and cheaper solar cells.  Credit - Lund University, © adimas/Fotolia and Journal Reference: J. Wallentin, N. Anttu, D. Asoli, M. Huffman, I. Aberg, M. H. Magnusson, G. Siefer, P. Fuss-Kailuweit, F. Dimroth, B. Witzigmann, H. Q. Xu, L. Samuelson, K. Deppert, M. T. Borgstrom.  InP Nano-wire array Solar cells achieving 13.8% efficiency by exceeding the ray optics limit.  Science, 2013; DOI: 10.1126/science.1230969In an 2012-13 issue of Science - researchers from Lund University, Sweden - demonstrated how nano-scale wires could spearhead the way forward for efficient and cheaper solar cells.  As stated by Magnus Borgstrom (a researcher in semiconductor physics and the principal author) - "Our findings are the first to show that it really is possible to use nanowires to manufacture solar cells,"

Recently global research concerning solar cell nanowires has been on the rise, but until now the unattainable dream figure of 10% efficiency was still not succeeded upon.  Though Borgstrom and his colleagues are able to report an efficiency of 13.8%.

Typically nanowires comprise of a semiconductor material - Indium phosphide (InP) - which function like an antennae that absorb sunlight and generate electricity/power.  The nanowires are assembled on base substrates of 1 square millimeter (mm2) that each house four million nanowires.  A nano-wire solar cell can produce and effect/active surface unit several times greater than today's silicon (Si) cells.

Unfortunately, until recently nano-wire solar cells have not made it beyond the laboratory, but the plan is that the nano-technology could be employed in large solar power plants in sunny regions, such as the south-western USA, southern Spain and Africa.  What the Lund researchers have succeeded in, is accurately identifying the ideal diameter of the nanowires and how to synthesis them.  As explained by Borgstrom - "The right size is essential for the nanowires to absorb as many photons as possible.  If they are just a few tenths of a nanometer (nm) too small their function is significantly impaired," 

In addition, the Si solar cells that are employed to supply electricity for primarily domestic use are relatively cheap, but inefficient because they are only able to employ a limited part of the effect of the sunlight.  The reason is that one signal material can only absorb part of the spectrum of the light.

Collaborative research carried-out simultaneous to nano-wire technology, thus, aims to combine different types of semiconductor material to construct efficient use of a broader part of the solar spectrum.  The negative aspect, is that they become extremely expensive and can therefore only be used in niche contexts, such as next generation satellites and/or military planes.

It is claimed this is not the case with nanowires, because of their smaller dimensions, whereby the same sort of material combinations can be created with much less effort, which offers higher efficiency at a relatively lower cost.  The manufacturing process is also less complicated.  In the Science article - the Swedish researchers have demonstrated that the nanowires can generate electricity/power at the same level as a thin film of the same material, even if they only cover ca. 10% of the surface rather than 100%.

The Science research has been carried out as part of an EU-funded project called AMON-RA, which was coordinated by Professor Knut Deppert (Professor of Physics at Lund University).  In summary, he states "As the coordinator of the project, I am very proud of such a great result - it has well exceeded our expectations.  We will of course continue the research on nano-wire solar cells and hope to achieve an even higher rate of efficiency than the 13.8% that we have now reported,"  Original article available here

DCN Corp finds the above research extremely interesting, and wishes to understand if the same solar energy absorbency efficiency can be achieved from the company's homogeneous dip coating displacement protocol?  If so, and you or your colleagues are interested in making the above a reality - please ensure to contact the company as soon as practicably possible.