Aug 092013

Latest research paves way for inexpensive, high performance cells

Organic solar cells, a new class of solar cell that mimics the natural process of plant photosynthesis, could revolutionise renewable energy – but currently lack the efficiency to compete with the more costly commercial silicon cells.

At the moment, organic solar cells can achieve as much as 12 per cent efficiency in turning light into electricity, compared with 20 to 25 per cent for silicon-based cells.

Now, researchers have discovered that manipulating the ‘spin’ of electrons in these solar cells dramatically improves their performance, providing a vital breakthrough in the pursuit of cheap, high performing solar power technologies.

The study, by researchers from the Universities of Cambridge and Washington, is published today in the journal Nature, and comes just days after scientists called on governments around the world to focus on solar energy with the same drive that put a man on the moon, calling for a “new Apollo mission to harness the sun’s power”.

Organic solar cells replicate photosynthesis using large, carbon-based molecules to harvest sunlight instead of the inorganic semiconductors used in commercial, silicon-based solar cells. These organic cells can be very thin, light and highly flexible, as well as printed from inks similar to newspapers – allowing for much faster and cheaper production processes than current solar cells.

But consistency has been a major issue. Scientists have, until now, struggled to understand why some of the molecules worked unexpectedly well, while others perform indifferently.

Researchers from Cambridge’s Cavendish Laboratory developed sensitive laser-based techniques to track the motion and interaction of electrons in these cells. To their surprise, the team found that the performance differences between materials could be attributed to the quantum property of ‘spin’.

‘Spin’ is a property of particles related to their angular momentum, with electrons coming in two flavours, ‘spin-up’ or ‘spin-down’. Electrons in solar cells can be lost through a process called ‘recombination’, where electrons lose their energy – or “excitation” state – and fall back into an empty state known as the “hole”.

Researchers found that by arranging the electrons ‘spin’ in a specific way, they can block the energy collapse from ‘recombination’ and increase current from the cell.

“This discovery is very exciting, as we can now harness spin physics to improve solar cells, something we had previously not thought possible. We should see new materials and solar cells that make use of this very soon” said Dr. Akshay Rao, a Research Fellow at the Cavendish Laboratory and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, who lead the study with colleagues Philip Chow and Dr. Simon Gélinas.

The Cambridge team believe that design concepts coming out of this work could help to close the gap between organic and silicon solar cells, bringing the large-scale deployment of solar cells closer to reality. In addition, some of these design concepts could also be applied to Organic Light Emitting diodes, a new and rapidly growing display technology, allowing for more efficient displays in cell phones and TVs.

Read more . . .


The Latest on: Solar cell breakthrough
  • The Promise and Challenge of Scaling Lithium Metal Batteries
    on January 20, 2018 at 3:56 am

    A big battery breakthrough could lead to electric cars that could drive longer on a single charge and are safer to operate. Better batteries for the grid could store more energy, enabling the deployment of more wind and solar. “There’s a worldwide race ... […]

  • Asian Nanotechnology Breakthrough
    on January 19, 2018 at 7:54 am

    INT has developed several products such as light emitting diode (LED) integrated into lighting lamps, solar cell (monocrystalline, HIT, UMG-silicon) and packaged solar panel with high efficiency, self-cleaning and sterilizing nano-materials (titanium oxide ... […]

  • Solar glass breakthrough: Skanska sets out plans to 'revolutionise' green buildings
    on January 19, 2018 at 4:42 am

    Swedish construction giant Skanska is to start covering office buildings in Poland with semi-transparent solar cells, in a world-first move it claims has the potential to "revolutionise" the construction industry and accelerate the delivery of energy ... […]

  • New Perovskite Solar Cell Breakthrough Funded By Texas Oilman’s Legacy
    on January 18, 2018 at 12:00 am

    The cost of solar power has been shooting downward with no end in sight, and a good deal of the excitement moving forward has to do with perovskite. The material is super efficient from a solar energy conversion point of view, and it’s super cheap to ... […]

  • Semiconductor Breakthrough May be Game-Changer for Organic Solar Cells
    on January 17, 2018 at 11:02 am

    In an advance that could push cheap, ubiquitous solar power closer to reality, University of Michigan researchers have found a way to coax electrons to travel much further than was previously thought possible in the materials often used for organic solar ... […]

  • Tributes for UNSW researcher who revolutionised solar cell technology
    on January 17, 2018 at 8:37 am

    which boosts the working lifetime of solar cells a hundredfold. Using lasers to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms in a silicon wafer to correct deformities, the technology was heralded as a “breakthrough for silicon photovoltaics” by Britain ... […]

  • Karabakh eyes breakthrough year, $100 mln investment in Mataghis
    on January 17, 2018 at 6:24 am

    PanARMENIAN.Net - 2018 will be a breakthrough year for Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh ... adding that residential homes in several villages will be furnished with solar cells for water supply. Furthermore, a 1 MW solar power plant project will be implemented ... […]

  • Study: To boost solar cell efficiency, curb 'hot electrons'
    on January 16, 2018 at 12:03 pm

    The longer the excess energy lingers, the more likely it is to get converted into electricity. The breakthrough could inspire solar cells capable of producing much higher voltages, as well as provide an efficiency boost of between 33 to 66 percent. […]

  • “Einstein of the solar world”: Remembering UNSW professor Stuart Wenham
    on January 15, 2018 at 5:16 am

    which has allowed the lifetime of solar cells to be boosted a hundredfold. The technology, based on the use of lasers to control the charge state of hydrogen atoms within a silicon wafer, was heralded as a “breakthrough for silicon photovoltaics” by ... […]

  • Rural regions could get massive energy boost with algae breakthrough
    on January 11, 2018 at 6:14 am

    These solar cells use the photosynthetic properties of microorganisms such as algae to convert light into electric current that can be used to provide electricity. Now, in a paper published in Nature Energy, the research team has revealed a new two ... […]

via Google News and Bing News

Other Interesting Posts

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: