Clean Power

Published on October 31st, 2013 | by James Ayre


Improving Solar Cell Efficiency — New Method Developed

October 31st, 2013 by  

A new method of improving solar cell efficiency, one that builds upon earlier research into the class of materials known as quasi-crystals, has been developed by researchers at the University of York and the University of St Andrews.

The new method allows for highly efficient broad-band light trapping in thin films — more light is captured within the film than with other methods, maximizing absorption and electricity generation.

A quasi-random structure to maximise performance of a thin film silicon solar cell. Image Credit: Dr Li Juntao

A quasi-random structure to maximise performance of a thin film silicon solar cell.
Image Credit: Dr Li Juntao

The University of York provides the details:

The new method builds on research into a class of materials known as quasi-crystals, which offer advantages in terms of the spectrum of light they are able to capture. However, the problem with these structures is that their properties are difficult to tailor towards specific applications as they lack the design tools available with periodic structures such as regular gratings.

To solve this problem, the researchers created a new structure called a quasi-random structure, which combines the rich spatial frequencies associated with quasi-crystals with the high level of control afforded by periodic structures.

Emiliano Martins, from the School of Physics and Astronomy, University of St Andrews, explained: “The control of propagating light is a crucial aspect in photonics. Here, we demonstrate that by a careful design of their Fourier spectra, quasi-random nanostructures can achieve such control very efficiently. “

Martins developed the idea of the quasi-random structure in cooperation with Dr Thomas F Krauss, an Anniversary Professor in the Department of Physics at the University of York. Dr Krauss stated: “Applying our nanophotonics design ideas to such an important area as solar cells is essential for improving the competitiveness of renewable energy generation. “

Collaborating author Dr Juntao Li, from the State Key Laboratory of Optoelectronic Materials and Technology, Sun Yat-sen University, China, noted: “Other than solar cells, our design can also be used in many light trapping areas, like LED and DFB lasers. “

The new research was just published in the journal Nature Communications.

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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+.

  • NRG4All

    I wish the article gave some indication as to how much more efficient this method is. Another concern is that we’ve seen so many laboratory “break throughs” it seems like we need some central place where all these various break throughs can be evaluated and synergistically rolled into one application. The problem of course is that most will want to protect their intellectual property which makes it hard to get the best of all this to market.

    • JamesWimberley

      The clearing-house is impracticable. What holds up the big panel manufacturers from adopting any of these bright ideas isn’t that the they don’t read the blogs, it’s commercial prudence, technological conservatism, and the absence of a deep-pocketed monopolistic leader like Intel or IBM or Apple.
      Many of the European research teams CT reports on have Chinese academic partners. This looks like a conscious strategy to speed up adoption by Chinese firms.

  • Charles

    That is a lot of jargon stacked on top of each other. It would be nice to have a translation for normal people

    • Doug

      Agree. This piece is very unclear.

  • JamesWimberley

    St.Andrews and York are small universities, not known for massive concentrations of scientific brainpower. The only European “big name” in the list of collaborators is Leuven. David sometimes beats Goliath.

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