Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Nanopatterning technique throws new light on photovoltaics

Date:
September 12, 2011
Source:
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Foerderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung
Summary:
Do better with less. That is the challenge that Swiss researchers have set for themselves. Their specialty: manufacturing solar cells that are one thousand times thinner than conventional cells. In order to boost the output of the cells, they have developed a new nanopatterning technique.

Layers of zinc oxide seen through an electron microscope. On the left: natural pyramid structure; on the right: structure when grown on a mould (height of images: 5 microns).
Credit: © PV-LAB, EPFL/SNSF

Do better with less. That is the challenge that researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) have set for themselves, supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation and the Federal Office of Energy. Their specialty: manufacturing solar cells that are one thousand times thinner than conventional cells. In order to boost the output of the cells, they have developed a new nanopatterning technique.

Related Articles


Even though silicon is one of the most abundant elements, the energy required to make silicon from sand is immense. It is for this reason, but also to reduce manufacturing costs, that Professor Christophe Ballif and his team from the Photovoltaics and Thin-Film Electronics Laboratory at the EPFL have been working for several years on thin-film silicon solar cells that are a thousand times thinner than conventional cells.

Better light absorption

There's just one catch: the thinner the cells, the less they absorb the rays of the sun and the less electricity they produce. So researchers are trying to trap light in the thin silicon layers to increase their absorption. Traditionally, thin layers of zinc oxide -- a material that is very abundant, completely non-toxic, and that grows in the form of small pyramid-shaped crystals -- are used for this purpose. These crystals scatter light efficiently into the underlying silicon layer. With such zinc oxide layers, even a new world record cell efficiency was achieved.

Reducing costs

But scientists are attempting to beat this record. "It is difficult to modify the natural pyramidal shape of these crystals in order to obtain even better light scattering," explains researcher Corsin Battaglia, "so we had the idea to force the crystals to grow on a different support, an inverted mould with the desired structure."

The idea is as ingenious as it is simple. Once the thin layer of zinc oxide is deposited on the mould all that needs to be done is to "demould" it -- as you would a tarte tatin, for example -- to obtain a film with the desired structure. This procedure, described in the September edition of the journal Nature Photonics, not only increases the amount of light that is trapped, thereby increasing output, but it also has the potential to reduce the cost of the cells because of its compatibility with mass production. These are interesting arguments at a time when photovoltaics is seeking to produce electricity at a lower price than the current grid price.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Foerderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Corsin Battaglia, Jordi Escarré, Karin Söderström, Mathieu Charrière, Matthieu Despeisse, Franz-Josef Haug, Christophe Ballif. Nanomoulding of transparent zinc oxide electrodes for efficient light trapping in solar cells. Nature Photonics, 2011; 5 (9): 535 DOI: 10.1038/NPHOTON.2011.198

Cite This Page:

Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Foerderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung. "Nanopatterning technique throws new light on photovoltaics." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908080838.htm>.
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Foerderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung. (2011, September 12). Nanopatterning technique throws new light on photovoltaics. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 21, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908080838.htm
Schweizerischer Nationalfonds zur Foerderung der wissenschaftlichen Forschung. "Nanopatterning technique throws new light on photovoltaics." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110908080838.htm (accessed April 21, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Matter & Energy News

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Free Home Heating Offered by E-Radiators

Free Home Heating Offered by E-Radiators

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 21, 2015) — A revolutionary new radiator design offers Dutch home-owners the chance to get free heating. The e-Radiator is a computer server modified so that the heat it generates can warm a room inside a house. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Humanoid Robot Can Recognise and Interact With People

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Apr. 20, 2015) — An ultra-realistic humanoid robot called &apos;Han&apos; recognises and interprets people&apos;s facial expressions and can even hold simple conversations. Developers Hanson Robotics hope androids like Han could have uses in hospitality and health care industries where face-to-face communication is vital. Matthew Stock reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

Drones and Health Apps at Santiago's "Robotics Day"

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) — Latin American robotics experts gather in Santiago, Chile for "Robotics Day". Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

Japan Humanoid Robot Receives Customers at Department Store

AFP (Apr. 20, 2015) — She can smile, she can sing and she can give you guidance at one of the most upscale department stores in Tokyo...a female-looking humanoid makes her debut as a receptionist Video provided by AFP
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