Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Carbon Nanotubes Could Make Efficient Solar Cells

Date:
September 11, 2009
Source:
Cornell University
Summary:
Using a carbon nanotube instead of traditional silicon, researchers have created the basic elements of a solar cell that hopefully will lead to much more efficient ways of converting light to electricity than now used in calculators and on rooftops.

In a carbon nanotube-based photodiode, electrons (blue) and holes (red) - the positively charged areas where electrons used to be before becoming excited - release their excess energy to efficiently create more electron-hole pairs when light is shined on the device.
Credit: Nathan Gabor

Using a carbon nanotube instead of traditional silicon, Cornell researchers have created the basic elements of a solar cell that hopefully will lead to much more efficient ways of converting light to electricity than now used in calculators and on rooftops.

The researchers fabricated, tested and measured a simple solar cell called a photodiode, formed from an individual carbon nanotube. Reported online Sept. 11 in the journal Science, the researchers -- led by Paul McEuen, the Goldwin Smith Professor of Physics, and Jiwoong Park, assistant professor of chemistry and chemical biology -- describe how their device converts light to electricity in an extremely efficient process that multiplies the amount of electrical current that flows. This process could prove important for next-generation high efficiency solar cells, the researchers say.

"We are not only looking at a new material, but we actually put it into an application -- a true solar cell device," said first author Nathan Gabor, a graduate student in McEuen's lab.

The researchers used a single-walled carbon nanotube, which is essentially a rolled-up sheet of graphene, to create their solar cell. About the size of a DNA molecule, the nanotube was wired between two electrical contacts and close to two electrical gates, one negatively and one positively charged. Their work was inspired in part by previous research in which scientists created a diode, which is a simple transistor that allows current to flow in only one direction, using a single-walled nanotube. The Cornell team wanted to see what would happen if they built something similar, but this time shined light on it.

Shining lasers of different colors onto different areas of the nanotube, they found that higher levels of photon energy had a multiplying effect on how much electrical current was produced.

Further study revealed that the narrow, cylindrical structure of the carbon nanotube caused the electrons to be neatly squeezed through one by one. The electrons moving through the nanotube became excited and created new electrons that continued to flow. The nanotube, they discovered, may be a nearly ideal photovoltaic cell because it allowed electrons to create more electrons by utilizing the spare energy from the light.

This is unlike today's solar cells, in which extra energy is lost in the form of heat, and the cells require constant external cooling.

Though they have made a device, scaling it up to be inexpensive and reliable would be a serious challenge for engineers, Gabor said.

"What we've observed is that the physics is there," he said.

The research was supported by Cornell's Center for Nanoscale Systems and the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility, both National Science Foundation facilities, as well as the Microelectronics Advanced Research Corporation Focused Research Center on Materials, Structures and Devices. Research collaborators also included Zhaohui Zhong, of the University of Michigan, and Ken Bosnick, of the National Institute for Nanotechnology at University of Alberta.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cornell University. The original article was written by Anne Ju. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Cornell University. "Carbon Nanotubes Could Make Efficient Solar Cells." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090910151927.htm>.
Cornell University. (2009, September 11). Carbon Nanotubes Could Make Efficient Solar Cells. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090910151927.htm
Cornell University. "Carbon Nanotubes Could Make Efficient Solar Cells." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/09/090910151927.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Japan Looks To Faster Future As Bullet Train Turns 50

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) Japan's bullet train turns 50 Wednesday. Here's a look at how it's changed over half a century — and the changes it's inspired globally. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

US Police Put Body Cameras to the Test

AFP (Oct. 1, 2014) Police body cameras are gradually being rolled out across the US, with interest surging after the fatal police shooting in August of an unarmed black teenager. Duration: 02:18 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

Raw: Japan Celebrates 'bullet Train' Anniversary

AP (Oct. 1, 2014) A ceremony marking 50 years since Japan launched its Shinkansen bullet train was held on Wednesday in Tokyo. The latest model can travel from Tokyo to Osaka, a distance of 319 miles, in two hours and 25 minutes. (Oct. 1) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Robotic Hair Restoration

Robotic Hair Restoration

Ivanhoe (Oct. 1, 2014) A new robotic procedure is changing the way we transplant hair. The ARTAS robot leaves no linear scarring and provides more natural results. Video provided by Ivanhoe
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Space & Time

Matter & Energy

Computers & Math

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins