Solar cells are made from semiconductors whose ability to respond to light is determined by their band gaps (energy gaps). Different colors have different energies, and no single semiconductor has a band gap that can respond to sunlight’s full range, from low-energy infrared through visible light to high-energy ultraviolet.
Although full-spectrum solar cells have been made, none yet have been suitable for manufacture at a consumer-friendly price. Now Wladek Walukiewicz, who leads the Solar Energy Materials Research Group in the Materials Sciences Division (MSD) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), and his colleagues have demonstrated a solar cell that not only responds to virtually the entire solar spectrum, it can also readily be made using one of the semiconductor industry’s most common manufacturing techniques.
The new design promises highly efficient solar cells that are practical to produce. The results are reported in a recent issue ofPhysical Review Letters.