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

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

A new, tunable device for spintronics: An international team of scientists including physicist Jairo Sinova from the University of Mainz realises a tunable spin-charge converter made of GaAs August 29th, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

Thin films

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

Advanced thin-film technique could deliver long-lasting medication: Nanoscale, biodegradable drug-delivery method could provide a year or more of steady doses August 6th, 2014

New Material Allows for Ultra-Thin Solar Cells August 4th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

New analytical technology reveals 'nanomechanical' surface traits August 29th, 2014

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

Leading European communications companies and research organizations have launched an EU project developing the future 5th Generation cellular mobile networks August 28th, 2014

New technique uses fraction of measurements to efficiently find quantum wave functions August 28th, 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

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

RMIT delivers $30m boost to micro and nano-tech August 26th, 2014

SEMATECH and Newly Merged SUNY CNSE/SUNYIT Launch New Patterning Center to Further Advance Materials Development: Center to Provide Access to Critical Tools that Support Semiconductor Technology Node Development August 7th, 2014

Oxford Instruments Asylum Research and the Center for Nanoscale Systems at Harvard University Present a Workshop on AFM Nanomechanical and Nanoelectrical Characterization, Aug. 21-22 August 6th, 2014

Discoveries

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

A new, tunable device for spintronics: An international team of scientists including physicist Jairo Sinova from the University of Mainz realises a tunable spin-charge converter made of GaAs August 29th, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

Copper shines as flexible conductor August 29th, 2014

Announcements

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

New analytical technology reveals 'nanomechanical' surface traits August 29th, 2014

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

Energy

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. to Present at Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference August 27th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Chemical reaction yields "tapes" of porphin molecules: Flexible tapes from the nanoworld August 13th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Eco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturing: UMass Amherst team invents a way to create versatile, water-soluble nano-modules August 13th, 2014

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