Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Researchers use carbon nanotubes to make solar cells affordable, flexible

Abstract:
Researchers from Northwestern University have developed a carbon-based material that could revolutionize the way solar power is harvested. The new solar cell material - a transparent conductor made of carbon nanotubes - provides an alternative to current technology, which is mechanically brittle and reliant on a relatively rare mineral.

Researchers use carbon nanotubes to make solar cells affordable, flexible

Chicago, IL | Posted on September 28th, 2011

Due to the earth abundance of carbon, carbon nanotubes have the potential to boost the long-term viability of solar power by providing a cost-efficient option as demand for the technology increases. In addition, the material's mechanical flexibility could allow solar cells to be integrated into fabrics and clothing, enabling portable energy supplies that could impact everything from personal electronics to military operations.

The research, headed by Mark C. Hersam, professor of materials science and engineering and professor of chemistry, and Tobin J. Marks, Vladimir N. Ipatieff Professor of Catalytic Chemistry and professor of materials science and engineering, is featured on the cover of the October 2011 issue of Advanced Energy Materials, a new journal that specializes in science about materials used in energy applications.

Solar cells are comprised of several layers, including a transparent conductor layer that allows light to pass into the cell and electricity to pass out; for both these actions to occur, the conductor must be both electrically conductive and also optically transparent. Few materials concurrently possess both of these properties.

Currently, indium tin oxide is the dominant material used in transparent conductor applications, but the material has two potential limitations. Indium tin oxide is mechanically brittle, which precludes its use in applications that require mechanical flexibility. In addition, Indium tin oxide relies on the relatively rare element indium, so the projected increased demand for solar cells could push the price of indium to problematically high levels.

"If solar technology really becomes widespread, as everyone hopes it will, we will likely have a crisis in the supply of indium," Hersam said. "There's a great desire to identify materials - especially earth-abundant elements like carbon - that can take indium's place in solar technology."

Hersam and Marks' team has created an alternative to indium tin oxide using single-walled carbon nanotubes, tiny, hollow cylinders of carbon just one nanometer in diameter.

The researchers have gone further to determine the type of nanotube that is most effective in transparent conductors. Nanotubes' properties vary depending on their diameter and their chiral angle, the angle that describes the arrangement of carbon atoms along the length of the nanotube. These properties determine two types of nanotubes: metallic and semiconducting.

Metallic nanotubes, the researchers found, are 50 times more effective than semiconducting ones when used as transparent conductors in organic solar cells.

"We have now identified precisely the type of carbon nanotube that should be used in this application," Hersam said.

Because carbon nanotubes are flexible, as opposed to the brittle indium tin oxide, the researchers' findings could pave the way for many new applications in solar cells. For example, the military could incorporate the flexible solar cells into tent material to provide solar power directly to soldiers in the field, or the cells could be integrated into clothing, backpacks, or purses for wearable electronics.

"With this mechanically flexible technology, it's much easier to imagine integrating solar technology into everyday life, rather than carrying around a large, inflexible solar cell," Hersam said.

Researchers are now examining other layers of the solar cell to explore also replacing these with carbon-based nanomaterials.

Besides Hersam and Marks, other authors include Timothy P. Tyler, Ryan E. Brock, and Hunter J. Karmel. This work was supported by the Argonne Northwestern-Northwestern Solar Energy Research Center, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science, Office of Basic Energy Sciences.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Megan Fellman

847-491-3115

Copyright © Northwestern University

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

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Superheroes are real: Ultrasensitive nonlinear metamaterials for data transfer June 25th, 2016

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler': Physicists have devised a method for creating a special quantum entangled state June 25th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Nanotubes' 'stuffing' as is: A scientist from the Lomonosov Moscow State University studied the types of carbon nanotubes' 'stuffing' June 2nd, 2016

Programmable materials find strength in molecular repetition May 23rd, 2016

Nanotubes are beacons in cancer-imaging technique: Rice University researchers use spectral triangulation to pinpoint location of tumors May 21st, 2016

Unveiling the electron's motion in a carbon nanocoil: Development of a precise resistivity measurement system for quasi-one-dimensional nanomaterials using a focused ion beam May 16th, 2016

Discoveries

Superheroes are real: Ultrasensitive nonlinear metamaterials for data transfer June 25th, 2016

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler': Physicists have devised a method for creating a special quantum entangled state June 25th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Ultrathin, flat lens resolves chirality and color: Multifunctional lens could replace bulky, expensive machines June 25th, 2016

Announcements

FEI Launches Helios G4 DualBeam Series for Materials Science: The Helios G4 DualBeam Series features new capabilities to enable scientists and engineers to answer the most demanding and challenging scientific questions June 27th, 2016

Superheroes are real: Ultrasensitive nonlinear metamaterials for data transfer June 25th, 2016

Russian physicists create a high-precision 'quantum ruler': Physicists have devised a method for creating a special quantum entangled state June 25th, 2016

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Energy

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

Researchers discover new chemical sensing technique: Technique allows sharper detail -- and more information -- with near infrared light June 24th, 2016

FEI and University of Liverpool Announce QEMSCAN Research Initiative: University of Liverpool will utilize FEIís QEMSCAN technology to gain a better insight into oil and gas reserves & potentially change the approach to evaluating them June 22nd, 2016

Titan shines light on high-temperature superconductor pathway: Simulation demonstrates how superconductivity arises in cuprates' pseudogap phase June 22nd, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Nanoscientists develop the 'ultimate discovery tool': Rapid discovery power is similar to what gene chips offer biology June 25th, 2016

New generation of high-efficiency solar thermal absorbers developed June 20th, 2016

Novel capping strategy improves stability of perovskite nanocrystals: Study addresses instability issues with organometal-halide perovskites, a promising class of materials for solar cells, LEDs, and other applications June 13th, 2016

Perovskite solar cells surpass 20 percent efficiency: EPFL researchers are pushing the limits of perovskite solar cell performance by exploring the best way to grow these crystals June 13th, 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







Car Brands
Buy website traffic