Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Stanford scientists break record for thinnest light-absorber

This is a cross-section of the record-thin absorber layer showing three gold nanodots, each about 14x17 nanometers in size and coated with tin sulfide.

Credit: Carl Hagglund, Stanford Unibversity
This is a cross-section of the record-thin absorber layer showing three gold nanodots, each about 14x17 nanometers in size and coated with tin sulfide.

Credit: Carl Hagglund, Stanford Unibversity

Abstract:
Stanford University scientists have created the thinnest, most efficient absorber of visible light on record. The nanosize structure, thousands of times thinner than an ordinary sheet of paper, could lower the cost and improve the efficiency of solar cells, according to the scientists. Their results are published in the current online edition of the journal Nano Letters.

Stanford scientists break record for thinnest light-absorber

Stanford, CA | Posted on July 18th, 2013

"Achieving complete absorption of visible light with a minimal amount of material is highly desirable for many applications, including solar energy conversion to fuel and electricity," said Stacey Bent, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and a member of the research team. "Our results show that it is possible for an extremely thin layer of material to absorb almost 100 percent of incident light of a specific wavelength."

Thinner solar cells require less material and therefore cost less. The challenge for researchers is to reduce the thickness of the cell without compromising its ability to absorb and convert sunlight into clean energy.

For the study, the Stanford team created thin wafers dotted with trillions of round particles of gold. Each gold nanodot was about 14 nanometers tall and 17 nanometers wide.

Visible spectrum

An ideal solar cell would be able to absorb the entire visible light spectrum, from violet light waves 400 nanometers long to red waves 700 nanometers in length, as well as invisible ultraviolet and infrared light. In the experiment, postdoctoral scholar Carl Hagglund and his colleagues were able to tune the gold nanodots to absorb one light from one spot on the spectrum: reddish-orange light waves about 600 nanometers long.

"Much like a guitar string, which has a resonance frequency that changes when you tune it, metal particles have a resonance frequency that can be fine-tuned to absorb a particular wavelength of light," said Hagglund, lead author of the study. "We tuned the optical properties of our system to maximize the light absorption."

The gold nanodot-filled wafers were fabricated at a nearby Hitachi facility using a technique called block-copolymer lithography. Each wafer contained about 520 billion nanodots per square inch. Under the microscope, the hexagonal array of particles was reminiscent of a honeycomb.

Hagglund's team added a thin-film coating on top of the wafers using a process called atomic layer deposition. "It's a very attractive technique, because you can coat the particles uniformly and control the thickness of the film down to the atomic level, " he said. "That allowed us to tune the system simply by changing the thickness of the coating around the dots. People have built arrays like this, but they haven't tuned them to the optimal conditions for light absorption. That's one novel aspect of our work."

Record results

The results were record-setting. "The coated wafers absorbed 99 percent of the reddish-orange light," Hagglund said. "We also achieved 93 percent absorption in the gold nanodots themselves. The volume of each dot is equivalent to a layer of gold just 1.6 nanometers thick, making it the thinnest absorber of visible light on record - about 1,000 times thinner than commercially available thin film solar cell absorbers."

The previous record-holder required an absorber layer three times thicker to reach total light absorption, he added. "So we've substantially pushed the limits of what can be achieved for light harvesting by optimizing these ultrathin, nano-engineered systems," Hagglund said.

The next step for the Stanford team is to demonstrate that the technology can be used in actual solar cells.

"We are now looking at building structures using ultrathin semiconductor materials that can absorb sunlight," said Bent, co-director of the Stanford Center on Nanostructuring for Efficient Energy Conversion (CNEEC). "These prototypes will then be tested to see how efficiently we can achieve solar energy conversion."

In the experiment, the researchers applied three types of coatings - tin sulfide, zinc oxide and aluminum oxide - on different nanodot arrays. "None of these coatings are light-absorbing," Hagglund said. "But it has been shown theoretically that if you apply a semiconductor coating, you can shift the absorption from the metal particles to the semiconductor materials. That would create more long-lived energetic charge carriers that could be channeled into some useful process, like making an electrical current or synthesizing fuel."

Final goal

The ultimate goal, Bent added, is to develop improved solar cells and solar fuel devices by confining the absorption of sunlight to the smallest amount of material possible. "This provides a benefit in minimizing the material necessary to build the device, of course," she said. "But the expectation is that it will also allow for higher efficiencies, because by design, the charge carriers will be produced very close to where they are desired - that is, near where they will be collected to produce an electrical current or to drive a chemical reaction."

The scientists are also considering nanodot arrays made of less expensive metals. "We chose gold because it was more chemically stable for our experiment," Hagglund said. "Although the cost of the gold was virtually negligible, silver is cheaper and better from an optical point of view if you want to make a good solar cell. Our device represents an orders-of-magnitude reduction in thickness. This suggests that we can eventually reduce the thickness of solar cells quite a lot."

Other researchers on the project include Engineering Professor Mark Brongersma and former postdoctoral scholars Isabell Thomann and Han-Bo-Ram Lee from Stanford; and Gabriel Zeltzer and Ricardo Ruiz of Hitachi Global Storage Technologies in San Jose, Calif.

This article was written by Mark Shwartz writes 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

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough December 19th, 2014

Aculon Hires New Business Development Director December 19th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Power, Energy of Supercapacitors December 18th, 2014

Discoveries

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough December 19th, 2014

Creation of 'Rocker' protein opens way for new smart molecules in medicine, other fields December 18th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Power, Energy of Supercapacitors December 18th, 2014

Announcements

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Instant-start computers possible with new breakthrough December 19th, 2014

Aculon Hires New Business Development Director December 19th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Power, Energy of Supercapacitors December 18th, 2014

Energy

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

How does enzymatic pretreatment affect the nanostructure and reaction space of lignocellulosic biomass? December 18th, 2014

Iranian Scientists Use Nanotechnology to Increase Power, Energy of Supercapacitors December 18th, 2014

Lifeboat Foundation gives 2014 Guardian Award to Elon Musk December 16th, 2014

Research partnerships

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Unraveling the light of fireflies December 17th, 2014

Scientists trace nanoparticles from plants to caterpillars: Rice University study examines how nanoparticles behave in food chain December 16th, 2014

FEI and Oregon Health & Science University Install a Complete Correlative Microscopy Workflow in Newly Built Collaborative Science Facility December 16th, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Oregon researchers glimpse pathway of sunlight to electricity: Collaboration with Lund University uses modified UO spectroscopy equipment to study 'maze' of connections in photoactive quantum dots December 19th, 2014

Lifeboat Foundation gives 2014 Guardian Award to Elon Musk December 16th, 2014

Stacking two-dimensional materials may lower cost of semiconductor devices December 11th, 2014

New Technique Could Harvest More of the Sun's Energy December 9th, 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