Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Tiny 'LEGO brick' -style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient

Date:
October 18, 2013
Source:
Imperial College London
Summary:
Most solar cells are made using thick layers of material to absorb sunlight, but have been limited in the past by relatively high costs. Many new, lower cost designs are limited as their layer of light-absorbing material is too thin to extract enough energy. In new research, scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22 per cent by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer.

Rows of aluminium studs help solar panels extract more energy from sunlight than those with flat surfaces.

Related Articles


Most solar cells used in homes and industry are made using thick layers of material to absorb sunlight, but have been limited in the past by relatively high costs. Many new, lower cost designs are limited as their layer of light-absorbing material is too thin to extract enough energy.

In new research, scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22 per cent by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer.

At the microscopic level, the studs make the solar panels look similar to the interlocking LEGO building bricks played with by children across the world.

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports by scientists from Imperial College London and international collaborators in Belgium, China and Japan.

"In recent years both the efficiency and cost of commercial solar panels have improved but they remain expensive compared to fossil fuels. As the absorbing material alone can make up half the cost of a solar panel our aim has been to reduce to a minimum the amount that is needed," said lead author Dr Nicholas Hylton from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.

"The success of our technology, in combination with modern anti-reflection coatings, will take us a long way down the path towards highly efficient and thin solar cells that could be available at a competitive price."

Dr Hylton and his colleagues attached rows of aluminium cylinders just 100 nanometres across to the top of the solar panel, where they interact with passing light, causing individual light rays to change course. More energy is extracted from the light as the rays become effectively trapped inside the solar panel and travel for longer distances through its absorbing layer.

In the past scientists have tried to achieve the light bending effect using silver and gold studs because those materials are known to strongly interact with light, however these precious metals actually reduce the efficiency as they absorb some of the light before it enters the solar panel.

"The key to understanding these new results is in the way the internal structures of these metals interact with light. Gold and silver both have a strong effect on passing light rays, which can penetrate into the tiny studs and be absorbed, whereas aluminium has a different interaction and merely bends and scatters light as it travels past them into the solar cells."

An additional advantage to this solution is that aluminium is cheaper and far more abundant than silver and gold.

The future success of this technology opens up the possibility of making flexible solar panels that could be applied to any flat or curved surface, which could be used to power everything from domestic appliances to portable electronics like laptops.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Imperial College London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. N P Hylton et al. Loss mitigation in plasmonic solar cells: aluminium nanoparticles for broadband photocurrent enhancements in GaAs photodiodes. Nature Scientific Reports, October 2013

Cite This Page:

Imperial College London. "Tiny 'LEGO brick' -style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 18 October 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131018084452.htm>.
Imperial College London. (2013, October 18). Tiny 'LEGO brick' -style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131018084452.htm
Imperial College London. "Tiny 'LEGO brick' -style studs make solar panels a quarter more efficient." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131018084452.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

IKEA Desk Converts From Standing to Sitting With One Button

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) IKEA is out with a new convertible desk that can convert from a sitting desk to a standing one with just the push of a button. Jen Markham explains. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

Ebola Protective Suits Being Made in China

AFP (Oct. 24, 2014) A factory in China is busy making Ebola protective suits for healthcare workers and others fighting the spread of the virus. Duration: 00:38 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Real-Life Transformer Robot Walks, Then Folds Into a Car

Buzz60 (Oct. 24, 2014) Brave Robotics and Asratec teamed with original Transformers toy company Tomy to create a functional 5-foot-tall humanoid robot that can march and fold itself into a 3-foot-long sports car. Jen Markham has the story. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

Police Testing New Gunfire Tracking Technology

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A California-based startup has designed new law enforcement technology that aims to automatically alert dispatch when an officer's gun is unholstered and fired. Two law enforcement agencies are currently testing the technology. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
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