Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Special deal on photon-to-electron conversion: Two for one! New technique developed at MIT could enable a major boost in solar-cell efficiency

Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT
Illustration: Christine Daniloff/MIT

Abstract:
Throughout decades of research on solar cells, one formula has been considered an absolute limit to the efficiency of such devices in converting sunlight into electricity: Called the Shockley-Queisser efficiency limit, it posits that the ultimate conversion efficiency can never exceed 34 percent for a single optimized semiconductor junction.

Special deal on photon-to-electron conversion: Two for one! New technique developed at MIT could enable a major boost in solar-cell efficiency

Cambridge, MA | Posted on April 19th, 2013

Now, researchers at MIT have shown that there is a way to blow past that limit as easily as today's jet fighters zoom through the sound barrier — which was also once seen as an ultimate limit.

Their work appears this week in a report in the journal Science, co-authored by graduate students including Daniel Congreve, Nicholas Thompson, Eric Hontz and Shane Yost, alumna Jiye Lee '12, and professors Marc Baldo and Troy Van Voorhis.

The principle behind the barrier-busting technique has been known theoretically since the 1960s, says Baldo, a professor of electrical engineering at MIT. But it was a somewhat obscure idea that nobody had succeeded in putting into practice. The MIT team was able, for the first time, to perform a successful "proof of principle" of the idea, which is known as singlet exciton fission. (An exciton is the excited state of a molecule after absorbing energy from a photon.)

In a standard photovoltaic (PV) cell, each photon knocks loose exactly one electron inside the PV material. That loose electron then can be harnessed through wires to provide an electrical current.

But in the new technique, each photon can instead knock two electrons loose. This makes the process much more efficient: In a standard cell, any excess energy carried by a photon is wasted as heat, whereas in the new system the extra energy goes into producing two electrons instead of one.

While others have previously "split" a photon's energy, they have done so using ultraviolet light, a relatively minor component of sunlight at Earth's surface. The new work represents the first time this feat has been accomplished with visible light, laying a pathway for practical applications in solar PV panels.

This was accomplished using an organic compound called pentacene in an organic solar cell. While that material's ability to produce two excitons from one photon had been known, nobody had previously been able to incorporate it within a PV device that generated more than one electron per photon.

"Our whole project was directed at showing that this splitting process was effective," says Baldo, who is also the director of the Center for Excitonics, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy. "We showed that we could get through that barrier."

The theoretical basis for this work was laid long ago, says Congreve, but nobody had been able to realize it in a real, functioning system. "In this system," he says, "everyone knew you could, they were just waiting for someone to do it."

"This is the landmark event we had all been waiting to see," adds Richard Friend, the Cavendish Professor of Physics at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in this research. "This is really great research."

Since this was just a first proof of principle, the team has not yet optimized the energy-conversion efficiency of the system, which remains less than 2 percent. But ratcheting up that efficiency through further optimization should be a straightforward process, the researchers say. "There appears to be no fundamental barrier," Thompson says.

While today's commercial solar panels typically have an efficiency of at most 25 percent, a silicon solar cell harnessing singlet fission should make it feasible to achieve efficiency of more than 30 percent, Baldo says — a huge leap in a field typically marked by slow, incremental progress. In solar cell research, he notes, people are striving "for an increase of a tenth of a percent."

Solar panel efficiencies can also be improved by stacking different solar cells together, but combining solar cells is expensive with conventional solar-cell materials. The new technology instead promises to work as an inexpensive coating on solar cells.

The work made use of a known material, but the team is now exploring new materials that might perform the same trick even better. "The field is working on materials that were chanced upon," Baldo says — but now that the principles are better understood, researchers can begin exploring possible alternatives in a more systematic way.

Christopher Bardeen, a professor of chemistry at the University of California at Riverside who was not involved in this research, calls this work "very important" and says the process used by the MIT team "represents a first step towards incorporating an exotic photophysical process (fission) into a real device. This achievement will help convince workers in the field that this process has real potential for boosting organic solar cell efficiencies by 25 percent or more."

The research was performed in the Center for Excitonics and supported by the U.S. Department of Energy. MIT has filed for a provisional patent on the technology.

####

For more information, please click here

Copyright © Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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 Links

Download Science article:

Related News Press

News and information

CiQUS researchers design an artificial nose to detect DNA differentiation with single nucleotide resolution September 18th, 2014

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

FEI Opens New Technology Center in Czech Republic: FEI expands its presence in Brno with the opening of a new, larger facility September 18th, 2014

Biosensors Get a Boost from Graphene Partnership: $5 Million Investment Supports Dozens of Jobs and Development of 300mm Fabrication Process and Wafer Transfer Facility September 18th, 2014

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

Scientists refine formula for nanotube types: Rice University theorists determine factors that give tubes their chiral angles September 17th, 2014

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Discoveries

CiQUS researchers design an artificial nose to detect DNA differentiation with single nucleotide resolution September 18th, 2014

Big Results Require Big Ambitions: Three young UCSB faculty receive CAREER awards from the National Science Foundation September 18th, 2014

The Pocket Project will develop a low-cost and accurate point-of-care test to diagnose Tuberculosis: ICN2 holds a follow-up meeting of the Project on September 18th - 19th September 18th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Announcements

Wear-resistant ceramic powder maximises component lifespan in high-stress applications: Innovnano’s nanostructured 3YSZ offers improved tribological performance for manufacturing components September 18th, 2014

IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014

FEI Opens New Technology Center in Czech Republic: FEI expands its presence in Brno with the opening of a new, larger facility September 18th, 2014

Biosensors Get a Boost from Graphene Partnership: $5 Million Investment Supports Dozens of Jobs and Development of 300mm Fabrication Process and Wafer Transfer Facility September 18th, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

CiQUS researchers design an artificial nose to detect DNA differentiation with single nucleotide resolution September 18th, 2014

New non-invasive technique could revolutionize the imaging of metastatic cancer September 17th, 2014

Toward making lithium-sulfur batteries a commercial reality for a bigger energy punch September 17th, 2014

Recruiting bacteria to be technology innovation partners: September 17th, 2014

Patents/IP/Tech Transfer/Licensing

‘Small’ transformation yields big changes September 16th, 2014

Berkeley Lab Licenses Boron Nitride Nanotube Technology: New material has unique mechanical and electronic properties September 13th, 2014

Secure Computing for the ‘Everyman': Quantum computing goes to market in tech transfer agreement with Allied Minds September 2nd, 2014

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

Energy

IEEE International Electron Devices Meeting To Celebrate 60th Anniversary as The Leading Technical Conference for Advanced Semiconductor Devices September 18th, 2014

Rice rolls 'neat' nanotube fibers: Rice University researchers' acid-free approach leads to strong conductive carbon threads September 15th, 2014

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

UT Arlington research uses nanotechnology to help cool electrons with no external sources September 11th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Simple, Cost-Effective Method Proposed for Synthesizing Zinc Oxide Nanopigments September 15th, 2014

Indium/Copper Sulfide Compound Semi-Conductor Synthesized through New Method September 8th, 2014

Material development on the nanoscale: Doped graphene nanoribbons with potential September 8th, 2014

Layered graphene sandwich for next generation electronics September 8th, 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