Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors





Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

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

Measuring the Smallest Magnets July 28th, 2014

WITec to host the 11th Confocal Raman Imaging Symposium from September 29th - October 1st in Ulm, Germany July 28th, 2014

FEI adds Phase Plate Technology and Titan Halo TEM to its Structural Biology Product Portfolio: New solutions provide the high-quality imaging and contrast necessary to analyze the 3D structure of molecules and molecular complexes July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Nanotubes/Buckyballs

UCF Nanotech Spinout Developing Revolutionary Battery Technology: Power the Next Generation of Electronics with Carbon July 23rd, 2014

University of Houston researchers create new method to draw molecules from live cells: Technique using magnetic nanomaterials offers promise for diagnosis, gene therapy July 17th, 2014

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014

Researchers discover boron 'buckyball' July 14th, 2014

Discoveries

Seeing is bead-lieving: Rice University scientists create model 'bead-spring' chains with tunable properties July 28th, 2014

Measuring the Smallest Magnets July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Stanford team achieves 'holy grail' of battery design: A stable lithium anode - Engineers use carbon nanospheres to protect lithium from the reactive and expansive problems that have restricted its use as an anode July 27th, 2014

Announcements

Measuring the Smallest Magnets July 28th, 2014

WITec to host the 11th Confocal Raman Imaging Symposium from September 29th - October 1st in Ulm, Germany July 28th, 2014

FEI adds Phase Plate Technology and Titan Halo TEM to its Structural Biology Product Portfolio: New solutions provide the high-quality imaging and contrast necessary to analyze the 3D structure of molecules and molecular complexes July 28th, 2014

Production of Toxic Gas Sensor Based on Nanorods July 28th, 2014

Energy

Oregon chemists eye improved thin films with metal substitution: Solution-based inorganic process could drive more efficient electronics and solar devices July 21st, 2014

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

3-D nanostructure could benefit nanoelectronics, gas storage: Rice U. researchers predict functional advantages of 3-D boron nitride July 15th, 2014

Nanotechnology that will impact the Security & Defense sectors to be discussed at NanoSD2014 conference July 8th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Steam from the sun: New spongelike structure converts solar energy into steam July 21st, 2014

Making dreams come true: Making graphene from plastic? July 2nd, 2014

Shrinky Dinks close the gap for nanowires July 1st, 2014

New Study Raises Possibility of Production of P-Type Solar Cells July 1st, 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