Flexible solar cells that are lightweight, energy efficient, and mass-producible are now one step closer to being a reality thanks to new research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Central Florida in Orlando.
Researchers at those universities devised a new way of creating large sheets of nanotextured, silicon micro-cell arrays — an important step towards the goal of said flexible, lightweight solar cells.
The researchers created the new nanotextured sheets via the utilization of a light-trapping scheme “based on a nanoimprinting technique where a polymeric stamp mechanically emboss the nano-scale pattern on to the solar cell without involving further complex lithographic steps. This approach has led to the flexibility (that) researchers have been searching for, making the design ideal for mass manufacturing,” according to UCF assistant professor Debashis Chanda, of the Nanoscience Technology Center and the College of Optics and Photonics, and the lead researcher of the new study. Chanda has previously been the recipient of a Department of Energy solar innovation award, and a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council award, among others.
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Previously, scientists had suggested designs that showed greater absorption rates of sunlight, but how efficiently that sunlight was converted into electrical energy was unclear, Debashis said. This study demonstrates that the light-trapping scheme offers higher electrical efficiency in a lightweight, flexible module.
The team believes this technology could someday lead to solar-powered homes fueled by cells that are reliable and provide stored energy for hours without interruption.
The new findings are detailed in a paper published in the journal Advanced Energy Materials.