Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

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

Searching for errors in the quantum world September 21st, 2018

Viral RNA sensing: Optical detection of picomolar concentrations of RNA using switches in plasmonic chirality September 21st, 2018

UT engineers develop first method for controlling nanomotors: Breakthrough for nanotechnology as UT engineers develop first method for switching the mechanical motion of nanomotors September 21st, 2018

Nanobiotix: Update on Head and Neck Phase I/II Trial with NBTXR3 and Other program data presented at ImmunoRad 2018 September 20th, 2018

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes/Nanorods

Carbon nanodots do an ultrafine job with in vitro lung tissue: New experiments highlight the role of charge and size when it comes to carbon nanodots that mimic the effect of nanoscale pollution particles on the human lung. September 12th, 2018

Graphene nanotubes outperform ammonium salts and carbon black in PU applications September 11th, 2018

S, N co-doped carbon nanotube-encapsulated CoS2@Co: Efficient and stable catalysts for water splitting September 10th, 2018

Peering into private life of atomic clusters -- using the world's tiniest test tubes September 6th, 2018

Discoveries

Searching for errors in the quantum world September 21st, 2018

Viral RNA sensing: Optical detection of picomolar concentrations of RNA using switches in plasmonic chirality September 21st, 2018

UT engineers develop first method for controlling nanomotors: Breakthrough for nanotechnology as UT engineers develop first method for switching the mechanical motion of nanomotors September 21st, 2018

NUS researchers invent new test kit for quick, accurate and low-cost screening of diseases: Test results are denoted by a color change and could be further analyzed by a smartphone app, making it attractive as a point-of-care diagnostic device September 19th, 2018

Announcements

Searching for errors in the quantum world September 21st, 2018

Viral RNA sensing: Optical detection of picomolar concentrations of RNA using switches in plasmonic chirality September 21st, 2018

UT engineers develop first method for controlling nanomotors: Breakthrough for nanotechnology as UT engineers develop first method for switching the mechanical motion of nanomotors September 21st, 2018

Nanobiotix: Update on Head and Neck Phase I/II Trial with NBTXR3 and Other program data presented at ImmunoRad 2018 September 20th, 2018

Energy

Leti Announces EU Project to Develop Powerful, Inexpensive Sensors with Photonic Integrated Circuits: REDFINCH Members Initially Targeting Applications for Gas Detection and Analysis For Refineries & Petrochemical Industry and Protein Analysis for Dairy Industry September 19th, 2018

S, N co-doped carbon nanotube-encapsulated CoS2@Co: Efficient and stable catalysts for water splitting September 10th, 2018

September 5th, 2018

Rice U. lab probes molecular limit of plasmonics: Optical effect detailed in organic molecules with fewer than 50 atoms September 5th, 2018

Solar/Photovoltaic

September 5th, 2018

NUST MISIS scientists present metamaterial for solar cells and nanooptics July 23rd, 2018

Northwestern researchers achieve unprecedented control of polymer grids: Materials could find applications in water purification, solar energy storage, body armor June 22nd, 2018

Team achieves two-electron chemical reactions using light energy, gold May 15th, 2018

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE



  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project