Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Perfecting a solar cell by adding imperfections

Abstract:
Nanotechnology is paving the way toward improved solar cells. New research shows that a film of carbon nanotubes may be able to replace two of the layers normally used in a solar cell, with improved performance at a lower cost. Researchers have found a surprising way to give the nanotubes the properties they need: add defects.

Perfecting a solar cell by adding imperfections

Santa Fe, NM | Posted on June 16th, 2008

Currently, these solar cells, called dye-sensitized solar cells, have a transparent film made of an oxide that is applied to glass and conducts electricity. In addition, a separate film made of platinum acts as a catalyst to speed the chemical reactions involved.

Both of these materials have disadvantages, though. The oxide films can't easily be applied to flexible materials: they perform much better on a rigid and heat resistant substrate like glass. This increases costs and limits the kinds of products that can be made. And expensive equipment is necessary to create the platinum films.

Jessika Trancik of the Santa Fe Institute, Scott Calabrese Barton of Michigan State University and James Hone of Columbia University decided to use carbon nanotubes to create a single layer that could perform the functions of both the oxide and platinum layers. They needed it to have three properties: transparency, conductivity, and catalytic activity.

Ordinary carbon nanotubes films are so-so in each of these properties. The obvious ways of improving one, though, sacrifice one of the others. For example, making the film thicker makes it a better catalyst, but then it's less transparent.

Previous theory had suggested that materials may function better as catalysts when they have tiny defects, providing sites for chemicals to attach. So the researchers tried exposing the carbon nanotubes to ozone, which roughs them up a bit. Very thin films, they found, became dramatically better catalysts, with more than ten-fold improvement.

In fact, the performance gets close to that of platinum. "That's remarkable," Trancik says, "because platinum is considered pretty much the best catalyst there is."

In order to address the trade-off between transparency and conductivity, the researchers tried another trick on a bottom layer of tubes: they created carbon nanotubes that were longer. This improved both conductivity and transparency.

The carbon nanotube films might be used in fuel cells and batteries as well.

"This study is an example of using nanostructuring of materials - changing things like defect density and tube length at very small scales - to shift trade-offs between materials properties and get more performance out of a given material," Trancik says. "Making inexpensive materials behave in advanced ways is critical for achieving low-carbon emissions and low cost energy technologies."

The researchers published their results recently in Nano Letters. They are currently in the process of filing a patent application for their techniques.

####

About Santa Fe Institute
The Santa Fe Institute (SFI) is an acknowledged leader in multidisciplinary scientific research. Its objectives are to discover and understand the common fundamental principles in physical, computational, biological, and social complex systems that underlie many of the most profound issues facing science and society today. By transcending disciplines, breaking academic molds, and drawing together an international network of unorthodox creative thinkers, SFI is an independent non-profit research and education center supported by grants, charitable giving, and corporate relationships.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Jessika Trancik

505-946-2794

Copyright © Santa Fe Institute

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

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Cutting-edge nanotechnologies are breaking into industries November 18th, 2016

Hybrid nanostructures hold hydrogen well: Rice University scientists say boron nitride-graphene hybrid may be right for next-gen green cars October 25th, 2016

Self-healable battery Lithium ion battery for electronic textiles grows back together after breaking October 20th, 2016

Scientists find technique to improve carbon superlattices for quantum electronic devices: In a paradigm shift from conventional electronic devices, exploiting the quantum properties of superlattices holds the promise of developing new technologies October 20th, 2016

Discoveries

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Announcements

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Quantum obstacle course changes material from superconductor to insulator December 1st, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Energy

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Deep insights from surface reactions: Researchers use Stampede supercomputer to study new chemical sensing methods, desalination and bacterial energy production December 2nd, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells: Researchers combine quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient, green solar cells November 30th, 2016

Battery Technology/Capacitors/Generators/Piezoelectrics/Thermoelectrics/Energy storage

A Phone That Charges in Seconds? UCF Scientists Bring it Closer to Reality November 21st, 2016

'Back to the Future' inspires solar nanotech-powered clothing November 15th, 2016

Vesper a Finalist for Two ACE Awards: Ultimate Products and Innovator of the Year -- Industry’s first piezoelectric MEMS microphone and Vesper CTO Bobby Littrell recognized for prestigious electronics-industry awards November 10th, 2016

Engineers develop new magnetic ink to print self-healing devices that heal in record time November 7th, 2016

Fuel Cells

Water vapor sets some oxides aflutter: Newly discovered phenomenon could affect materials in batteries and water-splitting devices October 3rd, 2016

Carbon-coated iron catalyst structure could lead to more-active fuel cells September 15th, 2016

Imperial College use Kleindiek micromanipulators in their research into electrochemical energy devices September 6th, 2016

Iowa State engineers treat printed graphene with lasers to enable paper electronics September 2nd, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Research Study: MetaSOLTM Shatters Solar Panel Efficiency Forecasts with Innovative New Coating: Coating Provides 1.2 Percent Absolute Enhancement to Triple Junction Solar Cells December 2nd, 2016

Throwing new light on printed organic solar cells December 1st, 2016

Physics, photosynthesis and solar cells: Researchers combine quantum physics and photosynthesis to make discovery that could lead to highly efficient, green solar cells November 30th, 2016

'Back to the Future' inspires solar nanotech-powered clothing November 15th, 2016

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