Nanotechnologies could slash cost of solar energy

February 3, 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: Climate change may scuttle Caribbean's post-hurricane plans for a renewable energy boom

Related Stories

Psst! A whispering gallery for light boosts solar cells

April 13, 2018

Trapping light with an optical version of a whispering gallery, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have developed a nanoscale coating for solar cells that enables them to absorb about ...

New type of opal formed by common seaweed discovered

April 17, 2018

Scientists have discovered a completely new type of opal formed by a common seaweed which harnesses natural technology by self-assembling a nanostructure of oil droplets to control how light reflects from its cells to display ...

Lifespan of new solar cell technologies to increase tenfold

April 10, 2018

Armi Tiihonen defended her doctoral dissertation at Aalto University 6 April 2018 on the ageing of new kinds of perovskite and dye-sensitised solar cells. She has developed ways to increase the lifetime of solar cells and ...

Recommended for you

New theory shows how strain makes for better catalysts

April 20, 2018

Brown University researchers have developed a new theory to explain why stretching or compressing metal catalysts can make them perform better. The theory, described in the journal Nature Catalysis, could open new design ...

Is dark matter made of primordial black holes?

April 20, 2018

Astronomers studying the motions of galaxies and the character of the cosmic microwave background radiation came to realize in the last century that most of the matter in the universe was not visible. About 84 percent of ...

Muons spin tales of undiscovered particles

April 20, 2018

Scientists at U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) national laboratories are collaborating to test a magnetic property of the muon. Their experiment could point to the existence of physics beyond our current understanding, including ...

0 comments

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.