Nanotechnologies could slash cost of solar energy

Feb 03, 2005

Nanotechnologies which can artificially change the optical properties of materials to allow light to be trapped in solar cells could greatly reduce the cost of solar energy. Research being carried out by the School of Electronics and Computer Science (ECS) at the University of Southampton is focusing on nanopatterning as the way to design effective solar panels.

‘By drawing features that are much smaller than the wavelength of light, photons can be confused into doing things they normally wouldn’t do,’ says Dr Darren Bagnall, of the School of Electronics and Computer Science. ‘By creating diffractive nanostructured arrays on the surface of solar cells we ensure that optical asymmetries are created that prevent light from escaping the solar cells.’

According to Dr Bagnall the light-trapping technologies could reduce the thickness of semiconductor materials needed in solar panels, and this would directly reduce the cost. The first challenge is to prove that the technology works in practice, the second key challenge will be to develop cost effective ways to produce nanopatterned layers.

The ECS approach is being applied to the £4.5M ‘Photovoltaic Materials for the 21st Century’ project which is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). Other university partners in this project are Durham, Bangor, Northumbria, Bath and Loughborough. They have teamed up with industrial partners to develop solar cells which will make it possible for manufacturers to slash the cost of solar energy by half.

Dr Bagnall comments: ‘We have already shown that we can use arrays of chiral nanostructures, such as swastikas, to change the polarisation of light, now we want to apply the same technology to photovoltaics.’

Source: University of Southampton

Explore further: Nano-capsules designed for diagnosing malignant tumours

Related Stories

What are extrasolar planets?

May 25, 2015

For countless generations, human beings have looked out at the night sky and wondered if they were alone in the universe. With the discovery of other planets in our solar system, the true extent of the Milky ...

Recommended for you

Non-aqueous solvent supports DNA nanotechnology

5 hours ago

Scientists around the world are using the programmability of DNA to assemble complex nanometer-scale structures. Until now, however, production of these artificial structures has been limited to water-based ...

Nanosilver and the future of antibiotics

6 hours ago

Precious metals like silver and gold have biomedical properties that have been used for centuries, but how do these materials effectively combat the likes of cancer and bacteria without contaminating the ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.