An atomically thin, new type of solar cell has been created out of tungsten diselenide by researchers at the Vienna University of Technology. The new solar cells — in addition to being extremely thin — are also highly flexible, and semi-transparent.
The new design is possible thanks to the creation (for the first time) of a diode made of tungsten diselenide. While the researchers are primarily interested in the creation of solar energy technology, the new diode could also be put to other uses — such as in the creation of flexible displays or electronics.
A bit of background — tungsten diselenide is a material consisting of one layer of tungsten atoms, connected to selenium atoms above and below the tungsten plane. The material is very effective at absorbing light, similar to graphene, but tungsten diselenide is far better suited to the task of creating electricity from light than graphene is.
The Vienna University of Technology provides more:
The layer is so thin that 95% of the light just passes through — but a tenth of the remaining five percent, which are absorbed by the material, are converted into electrical power. Therefore, the internal efficiency is quite high. A larger portion of the incident light can be used if several of the ultrathin layers are stacked on top of each other — but sometimes the high transparency can be a useful side effect.
“We are envisioning solar cell layers on glass facades, which let part of the light into the building while at the same time creating electricity,” states researcher Thomas Mueller.
Something interesting to note: the researchers at the Vienna University of Technology aren’t the only ones making big strides with tungsten diselenide — research groups at MIT and the University of Washington both recently published papers detailing advancements in the use of said material for a variety of purposes.
The new findings were just published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.