Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Trapping Sunlight with Silicon Nanowires

This photovoltaic cell is comprised of 36 individual arrays of silicon nanowires featuring radial p-n junctions. The color dispersion demonstrates the excellent periodicity over the entire substrate. Photo by Peidong Yang.
This photovoltaic cell is comprised of 36 individual arrays of silicon nanowires featuring radial p-n junctions. The color dispersion demonstrates the excellent periodicity over the entire substrate. Photo by Peidong Yang.

Abstract:
Solar cells made from silicon are projected to be a prominent factor in future renewable green energy equations, but so far the promise has far exceeded the reality. While there are now silicon photovoltaics that can convert sunlight into electricity at impressive 20 percent efficiencies, the cost of this solar power is prohibitive for large-scale use. Researchers with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), however, are developing a new approach that could substantially reduce these costs. The key to their success is a better way of trapping sunlight.

Trapping Sunlight with Silicon Nanowires

Berkeley, CA | Posted on March 6th, 2010

"Through the fabrication of thin films from ordered arrays of vertical silicon nanowires we've been able to increase the light-trapping in our solar cells by a factor of 73," says chemist Peidong Yang, who led this research. "Since the fabrication technique behind this extraordinary light-trapping enhancement is a relatively simple and scalable aqueous chemistry process, we believe our approach represents an economically viable path toward high-efficiency, low-cost thin-film solar cells."

Yang holds joint appointments with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, and the University of California Berkeley's Chemistry Department. He is a leading authority on semiconductor nanowires - one-dimensional strips of materials whose width measures only one-thousandth that of a human hair but whose length may stretch several microns.

"Typical solar cells are made from very expensive ultrapure single crystal silicon wafers that require about 100 micrometers of thickness to absorb most of the solar light, whereas our radial geometry enables us to effectively trap light with nanowire arrays fabricated from silicon films that are only about eight micrometers thick," he says. "Furthermore, our approach should in principle allow us to use metallurgical grade or "dirty" silicon rather than the ultrapure silicon crystals now required, which should cut costs even further."

Yang has described this research in a paper published in the journal NANO Letters, which he co-authored with Erik Garnett, a chemist who was then a member of Yang's research group. The paper is titled "Light Trapping in Silicon Nanowire Solar Cells."

Generating Electricity from Sunlight

At the heart of all solar cells are two separate layers of material, one with an abundance of electrons that functions as a negative pole, and one with an abundance of electron holes (positively-charged energy spaces) that functions as a positive pole. When photons from the sun are absorbed, their energy is used to create electron-hole pairs, which are then separated at the interface between the two layers and collected as electricity.

Because of its superior photo-electronic properties, silicon remains the photovoltaic semiconductor of choice but rising demand has inflated the price of the raw material. Furthermore, because of the high-level of crystal purification required, even the fabrication of the simplest silicon-based solar cell is a complex, energy-intensive and costly process.

Yang and his group are able to reduce both the quantity and the quality requirements for silicon by using vertical arrays of nanostructured radial p-n junctions rather than conventional planar p-n junctions. In a radial p-n junction, a layer of n-type silicon forms a shell around a p-type silicon nanowire core. As a result, photo-excited electrons and holes travel much shorter distances to electrodes, eliminating a charge-carrier bottleneck that often arises in a typical silicon solar cell. The radial geometry array also, as photocurrent and optical transmission measurements by Yang and Garrett revealed, greatly improves light trapping.

"Since each individual nanowire in the array has a p-n junction, each acts as an individual solar cell," Yang says. "By adjusting the length of the nanowires in our arrays, we can increase their light-trapping path length."

While the conversion efficiency of these solar nanowires was only about five to six percent, Yang says this efficiency was achieved with little effort put into surface passivation, antireflection, and other efficiency-increasing modifications.

"With further improvements, most importantly in surface passivation, we think it is possible to push the efficiency to above 10 percent," Yang says.

Combining a 10 percent or better conversion efficiency with the greatly reduced quantities of starting silicon material and the ability to use metallurgical grade silicon, should make the use of silicon nanowires an attractive candidate for large-scale development.

As an added plus Yang says, "Our technique can be used in existing solar panel manufacturing processes."

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation's Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems.


Additional Information

For more about the research of Peidong Yang and his group, visit the Website at www.cchem.berkeley.edu/pdygrp/main.html

For more about the Center of Integrated Nanomechanical Systems (COINS) visit the Website at mint.physics.berkeley.edu/coins/


####

About Berkeley Lab
Berkeley Lab is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory located in Berkeley, California. It conducts unclassified scientific research for DOE’s Office of Science and is managed by the University of California. Visit our website at www.lbl.gov.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Lynn Yarris
(510) 486-5375

Copyright © Berkeley Lab

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

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Speed at its limits September 30th, 2014

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Thin films

Southampton scientists grow a new challenger to graphene September 23rd, 2014

Beneq launches nFOG™ wet coating technology September 3rd, 2014

Picosun joins forces with IMEC for novel, industrial ALD applications August 25th, 2014

An Inkjet-Printed Field-Effect Transistor for Label-Free Biosensing August 11th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

NREL Announces New Center Directors to lead R&D, Analysis Efforts September 30th, 2014

A Heartbeat Away? Hybrid "Patch" Could Replace Transplants: TAU researcher harnesses gold nanoparticles to engineer novel biocompatible cardiac patch September 30th, 2014

How things coil: Researchers discover that simulation technology designed for Hollywood can be used as a predictive tool for understanding fundamental engineering problems September 29th, 2014

UT Arlington researchers develop transparent nanoscintillators for radiation detection for medical safety and homeland security September 29th, 2014

Possible Futures

Air Force’s 30-year plan seeks 'strategic agility' August 1st, 2014

IBM Announces $3 Billion Research Initiative to Tackle Chip Grand Challenges for Cloud and Big Data Systems: Scientists and engineers to push limits of silicon technology to 7 nanometers and below and create post-silicon future July 10th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Academic/Education

Yale University and Leica Microsystems Partner to Establish Microscopy Center of Excellence: Yale Welcomes Scientists to Participate in Core Facility Opening and Super- Resolution Workshops October 20 Through 31, 2014 September 30th, 2014

Rice launches Center for Quantum Materials: RCQM will immerse global visitors in cross-disciplinary research September 30th, 2014

Biosensors Get a Boost from Graphene Partnership: $5 Million Investment Supports Dozens of Jobs and Development of 300mm Fabrication Process and Wafer Transfer Facility September 18th, 2014

Malvern technology delivers Malvern reliability in multi-disciplinary lab at Queen Mary University London September 9th, 2014

Discoveries

Research mimics brain cells to boost memory power September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Announcements

Park Systems Announces Outsourced Analytical Services Including AFM Surface Imaging, Data Analysis and Interpretation September 30th, 2014

Ad-REIC vaccine: A magic bullet for cancer treatment September 30th, 2014

New Topical Hemostatic Agent: Neutral Self-Assembling Peptide Hydrogel September 30th, 2014

Chemical interactions between silver nanoparticles and thiols: A comparison of mercaptohexanol again September 30th, 2014

Energy

Production of Anticorrosive Chromate Nanocoatings in Iran September 27th, 2014

University of Electro-Communications research: High density quantum dots for powerful solar cells September 25th, 2014

On the Road to Artificial Photosynthesis: Berkeley Lab Study Reveals Key Catalytic Factors in Carbon Dioxide Reduction September 25th, 2014

Solar cell compound probed under pressure September 25th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

University of Electro-Communications research: High density quantum dots for powerful solar cells September 25th, 2014

On the Road to Artificial Photosynthesis: Berkeley Lab Study Reveals Key Catalytic Factors in Carbon Dioxide Reduction September 25th, 2014

Solar cell compound probed under pressure September 25th, 2014

Quick Method Found for Synthesis of Organic Compounds with Less Pollution September 25th, 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