X-ray Studies at SLAC’s Synchrotron Pave the Way for Better Methods to Convert Sunlight to Electricity
A new material design tested in experiments at the Department of Energy’s SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory could make low-cost solar panels far more efficient by greatly enhancing their ability to collect the sun’s energy and release it as electricity.
A team of University of California, Los Angeles, scientists found that by assembling the components of the panels to more closely resemble the natural systems plants use to tap the sun’s energy, it may be possible to separate positive and negative charges in a stable way for up to several weeks compared to just millionths of a second – the current standard for many modern solar panels.
“In photosynthesis, plants that are exposed to sunlight use carefully organized nanoscale structures within their cells to rapidly separate charges – pulling electrons away from the positively charged molecule that is left behind, and keeping positive and negative charges separated,” said Sarah Tolbert, a UCLA professor of chemistry and one of the senior authors of the research. “That separation is the key to making the process so efficient.”
The team’s X-ray studies at SLAC’s Stanford Synchrotron Radiation Lightsource (SSRL), a DOE Office of Science User Facility, enabled them to see, at a microscopic level, which material design has the most ideal structure at the nanoscale for promoting this charge separation. The results are published in the June 19 editionof Science.
Plastic Panels Provide Low-cost Alternative to Silicon
To capture energy from sunlight, conventional rooftop solar cells use silicon, which can be expensive. Solar cells can also be made using lower-cost materials like plastics, but plastic cells are far less efficient — in large part because the separated positive and negative charges in the material often recombine before they can become electrical energy.
“Modern plastic solar cells don’t have well-defined structures like plants do because we never knew how to make them before,” Tolbert said. “But this new system pulls charges apart and keeps them separated for days, or even weeks. Once you make the right structure, you can vastly improve the retention of energy.”
A Better Recipe for ‘Spaghetti and Meatballs’
The UCLA-developed system is composed of strands of a polymer, the building block of plastics, that absorb sunlight and pass electrons to a fullerene, a spherical carbon molecule also known as a “buckyball.”
The materials in these types of solar cells are typically organized like a plate of cooked pasta – a disorganized mass of long, skinny polymer “spaghetti” with random fullerene “meatballs.” But this arrangement makes it difficult to get current out of the cell because the electrons sometimes hop back to the polymer spaghetti and are lost.
The researchers figured out how to arrange the elements more neatly – small bundles of uncooked spaghetti with precisely placed meatballs. Some fullerene meatballs are designed to sit inside the polymer spaghetti bundles and others are forced to stay on the outside.
The fullerenes inside the structure take electrons from the polymers and toss them to the outside fullerenes, which can effectively keep the electrons separated from the polymer for weeks. A series of experiments at SSRL and other studies confirmed the best arrangement of the polymer strands and buckyballs.
Successes and Next Steps
“When the charges never come back together, it becomes easier to get them out of the solar cell in the form of electricity,” said Benjamin Schwartz, a UCLA professor of chemistry and a co-author of the study. “This is the first time such long charge lifetimes have been shown using this type of material.”
Researchers found that the materials self-assemble into this ordered form when placed in close proximity. The new design is also more environmentally friendly than current technology, because the materials can assemble in water instead of more toxic organic solutions that are typically used.
“Once you make the materials, you can dump them into water and they assemble into the appropriate structure because of the way the materials are designed,” Schwartz said.
The Latest on: Efficient low-cost solar panels
via Google News
The Latest on: Efficient low-cost solar panels
- UK could tap into Africa's $24bn market for off-grid solar poweron January 21, 2020 at 10:12 am
Rapidly growing sector could prove lucrative as Britain seeks post-Brexit trade opportunities ...
- Global Thin-Film Solar PV Market - Segmented by Type and Geography - Growth, Trends, and Forecast (2019 - 2024)on January 20, 2020 at 4:00 pm
The market for thin film solar PV is expected to register a significant growth on account of low-cost manufacturing of Cadmium Telluride ... to make production easier and also to make the solar panels ...
- Efficient lateral-structure perovskite single crystal solar cells with high operational stabilityon January 14, 2020 at 2:23 am
The power conversion efficiency of perovskite polycrystalline thin film solar cells has rapidly increased in recent years ... which show huge potential to realize low cost and highly efficient ...
- Cheaper Solar Energy One Step Closer?on December 20, 2019 at 6:25 am
Self-assembling material presents easy way of make perovskite single-junction and tandem solar ... developing low-cost solar technology. with a material, synthesised by Kaunas University of Technology ...
- What Are The Most Efficient Solar Panels On The Market Today?on December 19, 2019 at 4:00 pm
their low cost actually means they’re more cost-effective – even though you have to buy four additional solar panels to produce the same amount of energy. This doesn’t mean high-efficiency panels aren ...
- Efficient organic solar cells with a low energy loss enabled by a quinoxaline-based acceptoron September 14, 2019 at 5:00 pm
Organic photovoltaics (OPVs) have attracted much attention because of the advantages in low-cost and large-area ... Xiaozhang Zhu. Efficient organic solar cells achieved at a low energy loss.
- Kumkum to create green energy! Indian scientists develop low-cost, eco-friendly solar cells using vermilion dyeon July 29, 2019 at 5:35 am
Scientists at IIT Hyderabad have developed low-cost, environment-friendly solar ... according to the research published in the Solar Energy journal. The most familiar solar cells today are made ...
- Natcore Works to Develop Method for Low-Cost, High-Efficiency Solar Cellson March 23, 2018 at 7:49 am
A typical photovoltaic solar panel is anything but simple ... This discovery has the potential to be an industry first: low-cost mass-produced, ultra-high-efficiency, all-back contact solar cells. It ...
- Stanford University researchers showcase nanotechnolgy to create low-cost solar cellson January 23, 2018 at 10:30 pm
thin-film solar cells that are more efficient at capturing solar energy. The discovery can reduce the cost of solar energy production globally, they noted. Dr Shrestha Basu Mallick, working with ...
- High-efficiency, low-cost solar cells can be made from recycled car batterieson December 23, 2015 at 9:42 am
MIT researchers have developed a simple process for making perovskite solar cells with lead recovered from old car batteries. In the quest for more affordable and efficient clean energy production ...
via Bing News