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Scientists Make Foldable 3D Solar Cells around an Optical Fibre

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Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made a three-dimensional photovoltaic solar cell around an optical fibre, a revolutionary new approach that could pave the way for a new generation of hyper-flexible solar systems.

According to team-leader Professor Zhong Lin Wang, “Using this technology, we can make photovoltaic generators that are foldable, concealed and mobile. Optical fibre could conduct sunlight into a building’s walls where the nanostructures would convert it to electricity. This is truly a three dimensional solar cell.”

The dye-sensitised nano-converter is based on coated zinc oxide structures grown on the optical fibre, from which the cladding has been removed, covered with a conductive layer and seeded with ZnO.

The next step is to grow a series of aligned zinc nanowires around the fibre from solution, resulting in something closely akin to a bottle brush, before coating the wires with dye and immersing them in a liquid electrolyte to complete the circuit. The team claim that the set up achieves a solar efficiency of 3.3%.

To date, Wang and his research team have produced photo-generators on optical fibre up to 20cm long.

“The longer the better,” says Wang, “because the longer the light can travel along the fibre, the more bounces it will make and more it will be absorbed.”

Image Credit – Georgia Institute of Technology

 
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is a writer and freelance journalist specialising in sustainability and green issues. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.

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