An RMIT University research collaboration with top scientists in Australia and Japan is advancing next generation solar cells.
The development of cheaper and less toxic solar cells using nanotechnology is the focus of a collaborative research project conducted by RMIT, CSIRO and the Japan Science and Technology Agency.
The team is investigating the synthesis of semi-conductor inorganic nanocrystals using low-cost and abundant elements for printable solar cell applications.
The research was recently published in the high-impact Journal of the American Chemical Society.
The RMIT research team is led by Professor Yasuhiro Tachibana from RMIT’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.
“The focus of photovoltaic industries has been to reduce material and production costs for photovoltaic panels,” Professor Tachibana said.
“As a result research into next generation solar cells has been of significant importance as it concentrates on developing novel low cost and low toxicity colloidal nanomaterials in order to meet industry requirements.”
Colloidal nanocrystals can be used as an “ink”, enabling solar cells to be quickly and cheaply fabricated with a printer.
Currently, cadmium or lead elements dominate colloidal nanocrystals synthesis, despite toxicity concerns.
The research team – which includes Dr Joel van Embden from the School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Professor Kay Latham from the School of Applied Sciences – has been exploring alternative elements to synthesise nanocrystals.
Dr van Embden said: “Synthesising entirely new nanocrystals was one of the most challenging tasks, since the initial reaction conditions are unknown.
“We have focused on incorporating the elements, copper and antimony, into nanocrystals, as they are low-cost, low-toxic and earth-abundant,” he said.
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