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: A nanosized hydrogen generator

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Team improves solar-cell efficiency

23 hours ago

New light has been shed on solar power generation using devices made with polymers, thanks to a collaboration between scientists in the University of Chicago's chemistry department, the Institute for Molecular ...

Researchers use liquid inks to create better solar cells

Sep 17, 2014

(Phys.org) —The basic function of solar cells is to harvest sunlight and turn it into electricity. Thus, it is critically important that the film that collects the light on the surface of the cell is designed ...

Future of energy storage

Sep 16, 2014

MIT professor Fikile Brushett is in the process of taking the power generated by wind and solar, chemically lashing it to molecules derived from flora and fauna, and storing it in liquids until it's needed ...

Recommended for you

A nanosized hydrogen generator

Sep 20, 2014

(Phys.org) —Researchers at the US Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have created a small scale "hydrogen generator" that uses light and a two-dimensional graphene platform to boost ...

User comments : 0