Versatility of a new material makes for more efficient solar cells

Feb 16, 2011 By Emily Narvaes Wilmsen
Amy Prieto in her laboratory.

(PhysOrg.com) -- A Colorado State University professor has successfully turned a mineral compound into a material that can pass current through a nanoparticle network – an important discovery into more efficient, inexpensive solar cell materials.

Amy Prieto, professor of chemistry and founder of Prieto Battery, discovered that dramatic reactions occur with copper selenide at the nanoscale, according to the cover story in the Feb. 9 issue of the . Reactions with air allow Prieto and her students to manipulate or “tune” the properties of the device – such as a solar cell – containing the copper compound.

That’s an important discovery for looking further into earth-abundant, non-toxic materials that could help make inexpensive and absorb sunlight more efficiently than silicon, Prieto said.

are so small, therefore most of the surface reactions that you would never notice in bulk materials are pretty dramatic in a nanoparticle,” Prieto said. “There is getting to be a lot of interest in making devices like solar cells from nanoparticles.

"There is still much to be understood about how the material we're now using works – how it absorbs photons and converts them to current, that then has to traverse a tortuous path through the nanoparticle network” she said.

Prieto and her team tested the copper nanomaterial by attaching electrodes to thin films of copper selenide nanoparticles and watching how the thin films pass electric charges. They found that, with prolonged air exposure, the current changed dramatically.

Prieto’s research focuses on creating new inorganic materials – to replace silicon or cadmium telluride, for example – that could be incorporated into solar panels to produce electrical current.

She joined Colorado State University in 2005 as an assistant professor. She is part of the university’s Clean Energy Supercluster commercialization arm, Cenergy. In 2009, Prieto co-founded Cenergy’s first startup company, Prieto Battery, a company expected to produce batteries theoretically up to 1,000 times more powerful and 10 times longer lasting and cheaper than traditional batteries. The development of this technology could revolutionize the military, automobile and healthcare industries.

Explore further: Spider's web weaves way to advanced networks and displays

Provided by Colorado State University

5 /5 (2 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Solving the solar cell power conversion dilemma

Jan 24, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- "There is a lot of interest in creating more efficient solar cells that are also simpler than many of the designs common now," Wladek Walukiewicz tells PhysOrg.com. "We think that, throug ...

A new twist for nanopillar light collectors

Nov 16, 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 ...

Researchers improve efficiency of low-cost solar cells

Dec 07, 2010

(PhysOrg.com) -- As part of the recent progress in improving solar cells for widespread use, researchers from Purdue University have designed solar cells made of low-cost, abundant materials that are easily ...

Recommended for you

The simplest element: Turning hydrogen into 'graphene'

Dec 16, 2014

New work from Carnegie's Ivan Naumov and Russell Hemley delves into the chemistry underlying some surprising recent observations about hydrogen, and reveals remarkable parallels between hydrogen and graphene ...

Future batteries: Lithium-sulfur with a graphene wrapper

Dec 16, 2014

What do you get when you wrap a thin sheet of the "wonder material" graphene around a novel multifunctional sulfur electrode that combines an energy storage unit and electron/ion transfer networks? An extremely ...

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.