Nanotechnology Now





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Popcorn-ball design doubles efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells

 University of Washington
A close-up of a single ball, taken with a scanning electron microscope. The 300-nanometer sphere is large enough to scatter light. But its insides are made of tiny grains just 15 nanometers across.
University of Washington
A close-up of a single ball, taken with a scanning electron microscope. The 300-nanometer sphere is large enough to scatter light. But its insides are made of tiny grains just 15 nanometers across.

Abstract:
A new approach is able to create a dramatic improvement in cheap solar cells now being developed in laboratories.

By using a popcorn-ball design -- tiny kernels clumped into much larger porous spheres -- researchers at the University of Washington are able to manipulate light and more than double the efficiency of converting solar energy to electricity. The findings will be presented today in New Orleans at the national meeting of the American Chemical Society.

Popcorn-ball design doubles efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells

Seattle, WA | Posted on April 10th, 2008

"We think this can lead to a significant breakthrough in dye-sensitized solar cells," said lead author Guozhong Cao, a UW professor of materials science and engineering.

Dye-sensitized solar cells, first popularized in a scientific article in 1991, are more flexible, easier to manufacture and cheaper than existing solar technologies. Researchers have tried various rough surfaces and achieved higher and higher efficiencies. Current lab prototypes can convert just over one tenth of the incoming sun's energy into electricity. This is about half as efficient as the commercial, silicon-based cells used in rooftop panels and calculators.

The UW researchers did not attempt to maximize the overall efficiency of a dye-sensitized solar cell to match or beat these previous records. Instead, they focused on developing new approaches and compared the performance of a homogeneous rough surface with a clumping design. One of the main quandaries in making an efficient solar cell is the size of the grains. Smaller grains have bigger surface area per volume, and thus absorb more rays. But bigger clumps, closer to the wavelength of visible light, cause light to ricochet within the thin light-absorbing surface so it has a higher chance of being absorbed.

"You want to have a larger surface area by making the grains smaller," Cao said. "But if you let the light bounce back and forth several times, then you have more chances of capturing the energy."

Other researchers have tried mixing larger grains in with the small particles to scatter the light, but have little success in boosting efficiency. The UW group instead made only very tiny grains, about 15 nanometers across. (Lining up 3,500 grains end to end would equal the width of a human hair.) Then they clumped these into larger agglomerations, about 300 nanometers across. The larger balls scatter incoming rays and force light to travel a longer distance within the solar cell. The balls' complex internal structure, meanwhile, creates a surface area of about 1,000 square feet for each gram of material. This internal surface is coated with a dye that captures the light.

The researchers expected some improvement in the performance but what they saw exceeded their hopes.

"We did not expect the doubling," Cao said. "It was a happy surprise."

The overall efficiency was 2.4 percent using only small particles, which is the highest efficiency achieved for this material. With the popcorn-ball design, results presented today at the conference show an efficiency of 6.2 percent, more than double the previous performance.

"The most significant finding is the amount of increase using this unique approach," Cao said.

The experiments were performed using zinc oxide, which is less stable chemically than the more commonly used titanium oxide but easier to work with.

"We first wanted to prove the concept in an easier material. Now we are working on transferring this concept to titanium oxide," Cao said. Titanium oxide based dye-sensitized solar cells are now at 11 percent maximum efficiency. Cao hopes his strategy could push dye-sensitized solar cells' efficiency significantly over that threshold.

The research was funded by the National Science Foundation, the Department of Energy, Washington Technology Center and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research. Co-authors are postdoctoral researcher Qifeng Zhang, research associate Tammy Chou and graduate student Bryan Russo, all in the UW's department of materials science and engineering and Samson Jenekhe, a UW professor of chemical engineering.

####

About University of Washington
Founded in 1861, the University of Washington is one of the oldest state-supported institutions of higher education on the West Coast and is one of the preeminent research universities in the world. (Read more about the UW's history)

The UW educates a diverse student body to become responsible global citizens and future leaders through a challenging learning environment informed by cutting-edge scholarship.

We discover timely solutions to the world’s most complex problems and enrich people’s lives throughout our community, the state of Washington, the nation and the world.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Cao
(206) 616-9084


During the meeting
contact Cao at
(206) 383-3389.

Copyright © University of Washington

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

A 'movie' of ultrafast rotating molecules at a hundred billion per second: A quantum wave-like nature was successfully observed in rotating nitrogen molecules July 4th, 2015

New Biosensor Produced in Iran to Detect Effective Drugs in Cancer Treatment July 4th, 2015

Clues to inner atomic life from subtle light-emission shifts: Hyperfine structure of light absorption by short-lived cadmium atom isotopes reveals characteristics of the nucleus that matter for high precision detection methods July 3rd, 2015

Pioneering Southampton scientist awarded prestigious physics medal July 3rd, 2015

Discoveries

A 'movie' of ultrafast rotating molecules at a hundred billion per second: A quantum wave-like nature was successfully observed in rotating nitrogen molecules July 4th, 2015

New Biosensor Produced in Iran to Detect Effective Drugs in Cancer Treatment July 4th, 2015

Clues to inner atomic life from subtle light-emission shifts: Hyperfine structure of light absorption by short-lived cadmium atom isotopes reveals characteristics of the nucleus that matter for high precision detection methods July 3rd, 2015

Groundbreaking research to help control liquids at micro and nano scales July 3rd, 2015

Announcements

A 'movie' of ultrafast rotating molecules at a hundred billion per second: A quantum wave-like nature was successfully observed in rotating nitrogen molecules July 4th, 2015

New Biosensor Produced in Iran to Detect Effective Drugs in Cancer Treatment July 4th, 2015

Clues to inner atomic life from subtle light-emission shifts: Hyperfine structure of light absorption by short-lived cadmium atom isotopes reveals characteristics of the nucleus that matter for high precision detection methods July 3rd, 2015

Pioneering Southampton scientist awarded prestigious physics medal July 3rd, 2015

Energy

New technology using silver may hold key to electronics advances July 2nd, 2015

Visible Light-Sensitive Photocatalysts Used for Purification of Contaminated Water in Iran June 30th, 2015

June 29th, 2015

Making new materials with micro-explosions: ANU media release: Scientists have made exotic new materials by creating laser-induced micro-explosions in silicon, the common computer chip material June 29th, 2015

Solar/Photovoltaic

Making new materials with micro-explosions: ANU media release: Scientists have made exotic new materials by creating laser-induced micro-explosions in silicon, the common computer chip material June 29th, 2015

Spain nanotechnology featured at NANO KOREA 2015 June 26th, 2015

Stanford researchers stretch a thin crystal to get better solar cells June 25th, 2015

Toward tiny, solar-powered sensors: New ultralow-power circuit improves efficiency of energy harvesting to more than 80 percent June 23rd, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project