Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Stanford scientists build the first all-carbon solar cell

This shows the new all-carbon solar cell consists of a photoactive layer, which absorbs sunlight, sandwiched between two electrodes.

Credit: Mark Shwartz / Stanford University
This shows the new all-carbon solar cell consists of a photoactive layer, which absorbs sunlight, sandwiched between two electrodes.

Credit: Mark Shwartz / Stanford University

Abstract:
Stanford University scientists have built the first solar cell made entirely of carbon, a promising alternative to the expensive materials used in photovoltaic devices today.

Stanford scientists build the first all-carbon solar cell

Stanford, CA | Posted on October 31st, 2012

The results are published in the Oct. 31 online edition of the journal ACS Nano.

"Carbon has the potential to deliver high performance at a low cost," said study senior author Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. "To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a working solar cell that has all of the components made of carbon. This study builds on previous work done in our lab."

Unlike rigid silicon solar panels that adorn many rooftops, Stanford's thin film prototype is made of carbon materials that can be coated from solution. "Perhaps in the future we can look at alternative markets where flexible carbon solar cells are coated on the surface of buildings, on windows or on cars to generate electricity," Bao said.

The coating technique also has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs, said Stanford graduate student Michael Vosgueritchian, co-lead author of the study with postdoctoral researcher Marc Ramuz.

"Processing silicon-based solar cells requires a lot of steps," Vosgueritchian explained. "But our entire device can be built using simple coating methods that don't require expensive tools and machines."

Carbon nanomaterials

The Bao group's experimental solar cell consists of a photoactive layer, which absorbs sunlight, sandwiched between two electrodes. In a typical thin film solar cell, the electrodes are made of conductive metals and indium tin oxide (ITO). "Materials like indium are scarce and becoming more expensive as the demand for solar cells, touchscreen panels and other electronic devices grows," Bao said. "Carbon, on the other hand, is low cost and Earth-abundant."

For the study, Bao and her colleagues replaced the silver and ITO used in conventional electrodes with graphene - sheets of carbon that are one atom thick -and single-walled carbon nanotubes that are 10,000 times narrower than a human hair. "Carbon nanotubes have extraordinary electrical conductivity and light-absorption properties," Bao said.

For the active layer, the scientists used material made of carbon nanotubes and "buckyballs" - soccer ball-shaped carbon molecules just one nanometer in diameter. The research team recently filed a patent for the entire device.

"Every component in our solar cell, from top to bottom, is made of carbon materials," Vosgueritchian said. "Other groups have reported making all-carbon solar cells, but they were referring to just the active layer in the middle, not the electrodes."

One drawback of the all-carbon prototype is that it primarily absorbs near-infrared wavelengths of light, contributing to a laboratory efficiency of less than 1 percent - much lower than commercially available solar cells. "We clearly have a long way to go on efficiency," Bao said. "But with better materials and better processing techniques, we expect that the efficiency will go up quite dramatically."

Improving efficiency

The Stanford team is looking at a variety of ways to improve efficiency. "Roughness can short-circuit the device and make it hard to collect the current," Bao said. "We have to figure out how to make each layer very smooth by stacking the nanomaterials really well."

The researchers are also experimenting with carbon nanomaterials that can absorb more light in a broader range of wavelengths, including the visible spectrum.

"Materials made of carbon are very robust," Bao said. "They remain stable in air temperatures of nearly 1,100 degrees Fahrenheit."

The ability of carbon solar cells to out-perform conventional devices under extreme conditions could overcome the need for greater efficiency, according to Vosgueritchian. "We believe that all-carbon solar cells could be used in extreme environments, such as at high temperatures or at high physical stress," he said. "But obviously we want the highest efficiency possible and are working on ways to improve our device."

"Photovoltaics will definitely be a very important source of power that we will tap into in the future," Bao said. "We have a lot of available sunlight. We've got to figure out some way to use this natural resource that is given to us."


Other authors of the study are Peng Wei of Stanford and Chenggong Wang and Yongli Gao of the University of Rochester Department of Physics and Astronomy. The research was funded by the Global Climate and Energy Project at Stanford and the Air Force Office for Scientific Research.

This article was written by Mark Shwartz of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford University.

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Mark Shwartz

650-723-9296

Copyright © Stanford 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

Researchers find new way to control light with electric fields May 25th, 2017

Nanometrics Announces Retirement Plans of CEO Timothy Stultz: Dr. Stultz to Continue as Director May 25th, 2017

Nanomechanics, Inc. to Exhibit at the SEM Conference: Nanoindentation experts will attend and exhibit their instruments at the Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics in Indianapolis May 25th, 2017

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Leti to Demo 1st Wireless UNB Transceiver for ‘Massive Internet of Things’ at RFIC 2017 and IMS 2017: Leti Will also Present Three Papers & Two Workshops on 5G Communications IC Design, from RF to mm-Wave, During IMS 2017 and RFIC 2017 in Hawaii May 24th, 2017

Graphene/ Graphite

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria: Rice, Ben-Gurion universities show laser-induced graphene kills bacteria, resists biofouling May 22nd, 2017

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Researchers find new way to control light with electric fields May 25th, 2017

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria: Rice, Ben-Gurion universities show laser-induced graphene kills bacteria, resists biofouling May 22nd, 2017

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries: Rice University prototypes store 3 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries May 19th, 2017

Stanford scientists use nanotechnology to boost the performance of key industrial catalyst May 18th, 2017

Nanotubes/Buckyballs/Fullerenes

Fed grant backs nanofiber development: Rice University joins Department of Energy 'Next Generation Machines' initiative May 10th, 2017

Nanotubes that build themselves April 14th, 2017

Intertronics introduce new nanoparticle deagglomeration technology March 15th, 2017

Boron atoms stretch out, gain new powers: Rice University simulations demonstrate 1-D material's stiffness, electrical versatility January 26th, 2017

Discoveries

Researchers find new way to control light with electric fields May 25th, 2017

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria: Rice, Ben-Gurion universities show laser-induced graphene kills bacteria, resists biofouling May 22nd, 2017

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries: Rice University prototypes store 3 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries May 19th, 2017

Announcements

Researchers find new way to control light with electric fields May 25th, 2017

Nanometrics Announces Retirement Plans of CEO Timothy Stultz: Dr. Stultz to Continue as Director May 25th, 2017

Nanomechanics, Inc. to Exhibit at the SEM Conference: Nanoindentation experts will attend and exhibit their instruments at the Conference and Exposition on Experimental and Applied Mechanics in Indianapolis May 25th, 2017

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Military

Zap! Graphene is bad news for bacteria: Rice, Ben-Gurion universities show laser-induced graphene kills bacteria, resists biofouling May 22nd, 2017

Graphene-nanotube hybrid boosts lithium metal batteries: Rice University prototypes store 3 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries May 19th, 2017

Gas gives laser-induced graphene super properties: Rice University study shows inexpensive material can be superhydrophilic or superhydrophobic May 15th, 2017

'Hot' electrons don't mind the gap: Rice University scientists find nanogaps in plasmonic gold wires enhance voltage when excited May 8th, 2017

Energy

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Stanford scientists use nanotechnology to boost the performance of key industrial catalyst May 18th, 2017

Fed grant backs nanofiber development: Rice University joins Department of Energy 'Next Generation Machines' initiative May 10th, 2017

Discovery of new transparent thin film material could improve electronics and solar cells: Conductivity is highest-ever for thin film oxide semiconductor material May 6th, 2017

Solar/Photovoltaic

Three-dimensional graphene: Experiment at BESSY II shows that optical properties are tuneable May 24th, 2017

Stanford scientists use nanotechnology to boost the performance of key industrial catalyst May 18th, 2017

Fed grant backs nanofiber development: Rice University joins Department of Energy 'Next Generation Machines' initiative May 10th, 2017

Discovery of new transparent thin film material could improve electronics and solar cells: Conductivity is highest-ever for thin film oxide semiconductor material May 6th, 2017

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