Singapore researchers develop cheaper yet efficient thin film solar cells

Oct 12, 2011

Researchers in Singapore have exploited advanced nanostructure technology to make a highly efficient and yet cheaper silicon solar cell. With this development, the researchers hope that the cost of solar energy can be halved.

Developed jointly by Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics (IME), the new thin-film are designed to be made from cheaper, low grade silicon. However it is able to generate electricity currents close to that produced by traditional made from costly, high quality silicon.

The new NTU-A*STAR nano-structured solar cells can produce a current of (34.3mA/cm2) – a world record for a silicon solar cell of its kind.

This is made possible by creating a unique texture using nanostructures – which is thousands of times smaller than human hair – on the surface of the solar cell.

The resulting electricity current output is close to those of traditional cells (40mA/cm2). Conventional thin film solar cells usually produce about half of the current that traditional cells produce.

Adoption of solar energy around the world is hindered by the high cost of traditional solar panels, partially due to it being made from high grade crystalline bulk silicon.

Using low-grade amorphous (shapeless) silicon thin film that has no texture – which is over 100 times thinner – addresses the material cost issue, but it is not as effective in converting sunlight to , thus producing less energy.

The newly developed nanostructure method, which creates a unique texture on the surface of amorphous silicon, improves the Power Conversion Efficiency (PCE) of the thin film silicon cell and so increases the energy output.

The lead of the project from IME, Dr Navab Singh, Senior Scientist of IME's NanoElectronics Programme, said: "To mitigate against reduced light absorption and carrier recombination in the amorphous silicon thin film cells, we designed and fabricated the novel nanostructures on silicon surface. The sole application of IME's surface texturing strategy achieved a record high of short circuit current density with 5.26% PCE."

"The cell level power conversion efficiencies of bulk crystalline Si solar cells are 20 – 25%. Given that short circuit current density is directly proportional to PCE, it is conceivable that subsequent efforts to improve fill factor and open circuit voltage would boost the final PCE of the thin film solar cells greatly to match that of bulk Si solar cells. Our future research efforts will explore additional light trapping strategies such as plasmonics," continued Dr Singh.

Professor Cheng Tee Hiang, Chair of the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said improving the efficiency of low-cost solar cells is critical in encouraging adoption of solar energy around the world.

"Today's world is faced with several challenges, which include the depletion of fossil fuels, increased cost of such fuels and a growing carbon footprint. At NTU, we are committed to develop the next generation of solar cells which are cheap, efficient and easy to manufacture, so as to enable to play a bigger role as a renewable resource."

Sustainability is one of NTU's Five Peaks of Excellence which the university aims to make its mark globally under NTU 2015 five year strategic plan. The other four peaks include future healthcare, new media, the best of the East and West, and innovation.

Professor Dim-Lee Kwong, Executive Director of IME, said, "The demand for thin film solar cells are expected to double by 2013. IME's research efforts in this area are congruent with the world-wide movement towards renewable pro-environment and cost-viable energy solutions."

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User comments : 9

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Cave_Man
2.3 / 5 (3) Oct 12, 2011
I look forward to the day when we can power manufacturing processes at home using solar or wind power and everyone grows their own food and livestock (everyone who can at least with community initiatives filling in for people with no room or elderly people who aren't able to).

Screw corporate ownership of the things we need to live, just look at the blackberry fiasco and all the bacteria outbreaks from commercial food production.
Vendicar_Decarian
3.4 / 5 (5) Oct 12, 2011
American research at it's best.

Oh.... Wait...
ForFreeMinds
1.5 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2011
I look forward to the day when we can power manufacturing processes at home using solar or wind power and everyone grows their own food and livestock (everyone who can at least with community initiatives filling in for people with no room or elderly people who aren't able to).

Screw corporate ownership of the things we need to live, just look at the blackberry fiasco and all the bacteria outbreaks from commercial food production.


You will lose the benefits of specialization Do you also want to mine your ore, smelt it and use that to produce your own transportation, build your refrigerator, your own silicon chips, your telephone and telephone system, grow your own cotton, create your own thread and clothing?

I could go on, but you seem to ignore the fact that corporations are just associations of people trying to produce goods and services for others such that they are willing to buy them (because they benefit the buyer). And don't contaminate your food either.
dan42day
3 / 5 (4) Oct 12, 2011
If solar cells actually got just 1% cheaper every time I read an article in PhysOrg with a headline claiming that someone just discovered a new way to make them cheaper, They'd be giving them away for free by now.
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Oct 12, 2011
corporations are just associations of people trying to produce goods and services for others
Funny, how people used to be capable of doing all that without the legal neo-monstrosity of incorporation, with its obfuscation and shielding of responsibility and liability, artificial personhood, sociopathic fiduciary duties and practices, special regulatory and tax perks, and lately legalized balance sheet fraud (mark-to-model) and ability to bribe, blackmail, and outright purchase both politicians and regulators (after the "Citizens United" decision) -- blatantly felonious acts for which REAL *people* would be severely punished with asset disgorgement, punitive fines, and all the way up to life-long imprisonment.

And that's without considering the corporate practices of employing near-slaves and children in foreign nations, in near labor-camp conditions, and poisoning local lands, air, and water -- acts for which mere *people* would be sanctioned very harshly indeed, and rightly so.
ryggesogn2
1.7 / 5 (6) Oct 12, 2011
Everyone says it is the Chinese who are leading in solar cells.

Pinky prefers the slave labor of illegal immigrants in the USA. Is that why California is trying to attract so many with free education and no fear of deportation for violating US law?

The only slave labor conditions Pinky describes are in people's paradises like DPRK.
PinkElephant
not rated yet Oct 12, 2011
Pinky prefers the slave labor of illegal immigrants in the USA.
You're just an inexhaustible fount of filth, aren't you? Seriously, you're the most poisoned, toxic individual I've ever encountered. I'm glad I don't know you in real life.

Keep on turning a blind eye to slave-owners, and keep on blaming the slaves. Don't let me stand in your way, spitemonger.
California is trying to attract so many with free education and no fear of deportation for violating US law?
California (along with a few other states) has decided that children shall not be punished for the crimes of their parents. Yes, I know this upsets you greatly.
The only slave labor conditions Pinky describes are in people's paradises like DPRK.
Our best and biggest "free" "trade" "partner".
Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2011
"Pinky prefers the slave labor of illegal immigrants in the USA." - Ryggtard

So do your fellow Libertarian's and Randites who oppose all manner of border control in the U.S.

You have read your own Libertarian Party Platform haven't you Tard Boy?

Vendicar_Decarian
1 / 5 (2) Oct 13, 2011
"California is trying to attract so many with free education..." - RyggTard

True... Free education is a failure in Capitalist America.

But then all education is a failure in Capitalist America.

The corporations that rule America need uneducated sheep like you Tard Boy.