Australian researchers develop broadband nanoplasmonic solar cells

21st Feb 2012

Researchers in Australia have developed a new type of cell that should make solar panels more efficient.

The team from Swinburne University of Technology, who worked alongside Suntech Power Holdings, believe they have created the most efficient broadband nanoplasmonic solar cell in the world.

Professor Min G, director of the Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF), explained that the cells have already attracted interest and are considered a worthy alternative to bulk crystalline silicon cells.

The product has been designed using a thin film, which raises the problem of making it more difficult for them to absorb sunlight.

"Light trapping technology is of paramount importance to increase the performance of thin film solar cells and make them competitive with silicon cells," he commented.

"One of the main potential applications of the technology will be to cover conventional glass, enabling buildings and skyscrapers to be powered entirely by sunlight."

Efforts are therefore underway to rectify the issue, which has partly been resolved by embedding gold and silver nanoparticles into the cells.

These are able to raise the wavelength range of the absorbed light and therefore enhance the conversion of photons into electrons.

Dr Baohua Jia, senior research fellow at Swinburne, explained that this discovery could have significant implications for the solar power industry.

He noted that the team found that nanoparticles have an uneven surface, meaning that light is scattered even further into a broadband wavelength range.

As a result, absorption is improved, as is the efficiency of the cell – although he believes that this can be enhanced further as research continues.

At present, the product is able to achieve an efficiency rate of 8.1 per cent, but Dr Jia believes this could be increased to ten per cent at some point this year.

"We are well on track to reach the VSASF's target to develop solar cells that are twice as efficient and run at half the cost of those currently available," commented the expert.

This follows efforts by a team from the University of New South Wales to develop a new solar panel that can also warm air and water as well as generate electricity.

A report in the Sydney Morning Herald stated that the researchers hope the system can be integrated into the structure of a building so it would actually form a roof, rather than be placed on top of it.

Posted by Mike Peacock


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