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Clean Power SWNT nano-networks.
Image Credit: Umeå universitet

Published on March 24th, 2014 | by James Ayre

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Controlled Placement Of Carbon Nanotubes Creates Big Boost In Solar Cell Performance

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March 24th, 2014 by  

Solar cells can receive a big boost to their performance via the use of specially designed nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks, according to new research from Umeå University in Sweden.

While it’s long been predicted that carbon nanotubes could aid in the boosting of solar cell performance, barriers to their effective implementation have remained. For instance, carbon nanotubes need to be assembled into well-ordered networks of interconnecting nanotubes in order to function optimally — something that has, until now, remained something of an issue. That’s where this new work comes in.

SWNT nano-networks. Image Credit: Umeå universitet

SWNT nano-networks. Image Credit: Umeå universitet

This work is some of the first to show that “carbon nanotubes can be engineered into complex network architectures, and with controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.”

“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” states Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.


The press release from Umeå University provides some background:

Carbon nanotubes, CNTs, are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms that possess very unique properties. For example, they have very high tensile strength and exceptional electron mobility, which make them very attractive for the next generation of organic and carbon-based electronic devices.

There is an increasing trend of using carbon based nanostructured materials as components in solar cells. Due to their exceptional properties, carbon nanotubes are expected to enhance the performance of current solar cells through efficient charge transport inside the device.

This new method from Umeå University also has another significant advantage over other ‘conventional’ methods of using carbon nanotubes though, it uses considerably less of them, which, when you consider their relatively high cost, is certainly something important to note.

The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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About the Author

's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy. You can follow his work on Google+.



  • JamesWimberley

    “One-dimensional nanoscale cylinders …” Not the best drafting.

    The announcement says that carbon nanotubes “are expected to enhance the performance of current solar cells “. The headline transforms this vague hope into fact. Tut tut! Good news is devalued by exaggeration.

    • Windymac

      The material would be so elegant that I can’t see anyone wanting to stick it on an old panel anyway. This could be the game changer.

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