Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Argonne "homegrown" hybrid solar cell aims for low-cost power

This computer-generated image shows nanotubes, 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which comprise a new technique developed at Argonne for "growing" solar cells. 

Image courtesy Seth Darling (of the Center for Nanoscale Materials) and Argonne National Laboratory.
This computer-generated image shows nanotubes, 10,000 times smaller than the width of a human hair, which comprise a new technique developed at Argonne for "growing" solar cells. Image courtesy Seth Darling (of the Center for Nanoscale Materials) and Argonne National Laboratory.

Abstract:
Scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory have refined a technique to manufacture solar cells by creating tubes of semiconducting material and then "growing" polymers directly inside them. The method has the potential to be significantly cheaper than the process used to make today's commercial solar cells.

Argonne "homegrown" hybrid solar cell aims for low-cost power

Lemont, IL | Posted on December 1st, 2009

Because the production costs of today's generation of solar cells prevent them from competing economically with fossil fuels, Argonne researchers are working to re-imagine the solar cell's basic design. Most current solar cells use crystalline silicon or cadmium telluride, but growing a high-purity crystal is energy- and labor-intensive, making the cells expensive.

The next generation, called hybrid solar cells, uses a blend of cheaper organic and inorganic materials. To combine these materials effectively, Argonne researchers created a new technique to grow organic polymers directly inside inorganic nanotubes.

At its most basic level, solar cell technology relies on a series of processes initiated when photons, or particles of light, strike semiconducting material. When a photon hits the cell, it excites one electron out of its initial state, leaving behind a "hole" of positive charge.

Hybrid solar cells contain two separate types of semiconducting material: one conducts electrons, the other holes. At the junction between the two semiconductors, the electron-hole pair gets pulled apart, creating a current.

In the study, Argonne nanoscientist Seth Darling and colleagues at Argonne and the University of Chicago had to rethink the geometry of the two materials. If the two semiconductors are placed too far apart, the electron-hole pair will die in transit. However, if they're packed too closely, the separated charges won't make it out of the cell.

In designing an alternative, scientists paired an electron-donating conjugated polymer with the electron acceptor titanium dioxide (TiO2).

Titanium dioxide readily forms miniscule tubes just tens of nanometers across—10,000 times smaller than a human hair. Rows of tiny, uniform nanotubes sprout across a film of titanium that has been submerged in an electrochemical bath.

The next step required the researchers to fill the nanotubes with the organic polymer—a frustrating process.

"Filling nanotubes with polymer is like trying to stuff wet spaghetti into a table full of tiny holes," Darling said. "The polymer ends up bending and twisting, which leads to inefficiencies both because it traps pockets of air as it goes and because twisted polymers don't conduct charges as well.

"In addition, this polymer doesn't like titanium dioxide," Darling added. "So it pulls away from the interface whenever it can."

Trying to sidestep this problem, the team hit on the idea of growing the polymer directly inside the tubes. They filled the tubes with a polymer precursor, turned on ultraviolet light, and let the polymers grow within the tubes.

Grown this way, the polymer doesn't shy away from the TiO2. In fact, tests suggest the two materials actually mingle at the molecular level; together they are able to capture light at wavelengths inaccessible to either of the two materials alone. This "homegrown" method is potentially much less expensive than the energy-intensive process that produces the silicon crystals used in today's solar cells.

These devices dramatically outperform those fabricated by filling the nanotubes with pre-grown polymer, producing about 10 times more electricity from absorbed sunlight. The solar cells produced by this technique, however, do not currently harness as much of the available energy from sunlight as silicon cells can. Darling hopes that further experiments will improve the cells' efficiency.

The paper, entitled "Improved Hybrid Solar Cells via in situ UV Polymerization", was published in the journal Small and is available online.

Funding for this research was provided by the Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences and by the NSF-Materials Research Science and Engineering Center at the University of Chicago.

####

About Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne National Laboratory seeks solutions to pressing national problems in science and technology. The nation's first national laboratory, Argonne conducts leading-edge basic and applied scientific research in virtually every scientific discipline. Argonne researchers work closely with researchers from hundreds of companies, universities, and federal, state and municipal agencies to help them solve their specific problems, advance America 's scientific leadership and prepare the nation for a better future. With employees from more than 60 nations, Argonne is managed by UChicago Argonne, LLC for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Angela Hardin
630/252-5501

Copyright © Argonne National Laboratory

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

Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Rice University scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material December 20th, 2014

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough December 19th, 2014

Aculon Hires New Business Development Director December 19th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Rice University scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material December 20th, 2014

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Switching to spintronics: Berkeley Lab reports on electric field switching of ferromagnetism at room temp December 17th, 2014

ORNL microscopy pencils patterns in polymers at the nanoscale December 17th, 2014

Possible Futures

A novel method for identifying the body’s ‘noisiest’ networks November 19th, 2014

Researchers discern the shapes of high-order Brownian motions November 17th, 2014

VDMA Electronics Production Equipment: Growth track for 2014 and 2015 confirmed: Business climate survey shows robust industry sector November 14th, 2014

Open Materials Development Will Be Key for HP's Success in 3D Printing: HP can make a big splash in 3D printing, but it needs to shore up technology claims and avoid the temptation of the razor/razor blade business model in order to flourish November 11th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

A sponge-like molecular cage for purification of fullerenes December 15th, 2014

'Trojan horse' proteins used to target hard-to-reach cancers: Scientists at Brunel University London have found a way of targeting hard-to-reach cancers and degenerative diseases using nanoparticles, but without causing the damaging side effects the treatment normally brings December 11th, 2014

Detecting gases wirelessly and cheaply: New sensor can transmit information on hazardous chemicals or food spoilage to a smartphone December 8th, 2014

Green meets nano: Scientists at TU Darmstadt create multifunctional nanotubes using nontoxic materials December 3rd, 2014

Announcements

Atom-thick CCD could capture images: Rice University scientists develop two-dimensional, light-sensitive material December 20th, 2014

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough December 19th, 2014

Aculon Hires New Business Development Director December 19th, 2014

Energy

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

How does enzymatic pretreatment affect the nanostructure and reaction space of lignocellulosic biomass? December 18th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Power, Energy of Supercapacitors December 18th, 2014

Lifeboat Foundation gives 2014 Guardian Award to Elon Musk December 16th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Lifeboat Foundation gives 2014 Guardian Award to Elon Musk December 16th, 2014

Stacking two-dimensional materials may lower cost of semiconductor devices December 11th, 2014

New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy December 9th, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE