June 30, 2008

3D solar cells catch rebounds

The first order of business for making efficient solar cells is getting them to absorb more light. And one way to do this is to make solar cells thicker. These three-dimensional solar cells can absorb light from wider angles.

Researchers who made a three-dimensional solar cell from vertical carbon nanotubes have developed a computer simulation of the design that's made it possible to optimize another advantage of 3D solar cells: light bounces around inside them. The researchers have found the size, shape and spacing of the nanotubes that maximizes the number of times a given photon will hit the nanotubes. The more often a photon hits a nanotube, the more likely it is to be absorbed so its energy can be used to move an electron.

The simulation shows that making solar cells three-dimensional can triple their light-absorbing efficiency.

Research paper:
Simulations of Absorbance Efficiency and Power Production of Three Dimensional Tower Arrays for Use in Photovoltaics
Journal of Applied Physics, June 1, 2008

Researcher's homepage:
Jud Ready

Related stories and briefs:
Nanotubes tune in light
Solar cell teams plastic and carbon
Nanotubes harvest electrons

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