Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica

Clean Power

Tiny Silver Nano-Trees Pack Huge Solar Power Punch

uc davis develops treelike solar cell

A team of researchers at the University of California, Davis has developed solar energy’s Next Big Thing: nanoscale silver filaments grown in a treelike pattern. Just as a tree’s leaves collect sunlight over a broad surface area relative to their trunks, the filaments of silver nano-trees would be able to collect solar energy over a broad surface area relative to their supporting structure. Though the grant supporting the research is only a modest $100,000, it could lead to a new low-cost method for fabricating highly efficient solar cells.

Solar trees and fractal patterns

The new research was inspired by the “fractal” growth pattern of trees. Fractal patterns repeat in form while changing scale, as a tree trunk branches out into limbs, smaller branches, and finally into leaves.  In terms of solar collection efficiency, the result of the ever-diminishing scale is an ever-increasing area exposed to sunlight.

Growing a solar tree

The new fractal trees consist of silver branches 1/50th the width of a human hair, which can be grown through an electrochemical process involving silver nitrate layered onto a tin oxide film modified or “doped” with fluorine. Through this process, the original branch splits into smaller branches. When the tree is ready, it gets a light-absorbing plastic coating that transmits a charge from solar energy to the underlying silver.

New paths to low cost solar power

Aside from the potential for greater efficiency, the fabrication method (which depends primarily on a chemical reaction rather than mechanical processes) represents a broad approach to lowering the cost of solar energy. Other factors are the cost of materials, the installation process, and the permitting process, all of which are being tackled under President Obama’s SunShot Initiative.

Biomimicking our way to a clean energy future

The UC Davis team is by no means the only one to use trees as a jumping-off point for developing new clean energy technology, though the fabrication method appears unique. Researchers at Stanford University are working on a… treelike structure to capture atmospheric carbon and convert it to fuel, and Daniel Nocera’s team at MIT has been making waves with a “solar leaf” the size of a playing card.

Image: Tiny tree. License: Attribution Some rights reserved by casschin.

Follow Tina Casey on Twitter: @TinaMCasey.


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Advertisement

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats

Advertisement

Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Clean Power

Everybody is talking about the world's largest solar tree because it fits right into the emerging solar-plus-agriculture movement.

Clean Power

Solar fuel is the next wave of the renewable energy revolution, once they figure out how to scale a tiny little tile into a...

Clean Power

This ultra low cost, DIY solar tracker purifies water while deploying the ancient principles of water clocks and gravity to boost solar panel efficiency.

Clean Power

The Energy Department has launched a 17-project "solar hackathon" aimed at deploying the power of crowdsourcing to knock down barriers to low cost solar.

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.