Stanford University scientists have built the first solar cell made entirely of carbon.
It may present a promising alternative to the expensive materials used in photovoltaic devices today.
Scanning electron microscope image of initial prototype of light trapping 3D photovoltaic structures on a thin silicon wafer.
Solar3D, Inc., the developer of a breakthrough 3-dimensional solar cell technology to maximize the conversion of sunlight into electricity, today announced the successful fabrication and operation of a working 3-dimensional silicon solar cell that produces at least 250% of the power of a basic silicon solar cell.
Dr. Changwan Son, Solar3D’s Director of Technology, commented, “When measured relative to a conventional solar cell design, our working prototype produces electricity beyond our previous expectations. First, we fabricated our working prototype. Then we created a simple cell based on the conventional design, using the same fabrication environment, to serve as a control sample. By measuring the side-by-side power output of both cells, we were able to determine the relative performance under a number of conditions, ranging from bright sunlight to lower, diffuse light. In each test, our 3D Solar Cell consistently outperformed the control cell and produced at least 2½ times the amount of electricity under the same conditions.”
About 40 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth’s surface lies in the near-infrared region of the spectrum — energy that conventional silicon-based solar cells are unable to harness. But a new kind of all-carbon solar cell developed by MIT researchers could tap into that unused energy, opening up the possibility of combination solar cells — incorporating both traditional silicon-based cells and the new all-carbon cells — that could make use of almost the entire range of sunlight’s energy.
Solar power gathered in space could be set to provide the renewable energy of the future thanks to innovative research being carried out by engineers at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
Researchers at the University have already tested equipment in space that would provide a platform for solar panels to collect the energy and allow it to be transferred back to earth through microwaves or lasers.
High-efficiency Alta Devices solar cell
To produce the maximum amount of energy, solar cells are designed to absorb as much light from the Sun as possible. Now researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, have suggested – and demonstrated – a counterintuitive concept: solar cells should be designed to be more like LEDs, able to emit light as well as absorb it. The Berkeley team will present its findings at the Conference on Lasers and Electro Optics (CLEO: 2012), to be held May 6-11 in San Jose, Calif.
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