Science Current Events | Science News | Brightsurf.com
 

New Material Promises Better Solar Cells

February 13, 2013

Researchers at the Vienna University of Technology show that a recently discovered class of materials can be used to create a new kind of solar cell.

Single atomic layers are combined to create novel materials with completely new properties. Layered oxide heterostructures are a new class of materials, which has attracted a great deal of attention among materials scientists in the last few years. A research team at the Vienna University of Technology, together with colleagues from the USA and Germany, has now shown that these heterostructures can be used to create a new kind of extremely efficient ultra-thin solar cells.

Discovering New Material Properties in Computer Simulations

"Single atomic layers of different oxides are stacked, creating a material with electronic properties which are vastly different from the properties the individual oxides have on their own", says Professor Karsten Held from the Institute for Solid State Physics, Vienna University of Technology. In order to design new materials with exactly the right physical properties, the structures were studied in large-scale computer simulations. As a result of this research, the scientists at TU Vienna discovered that the oxide heterostructures hold great potential for building solar cells.

Turning Light into Electricity

The basic idea behind solar cells is the photoelectric effect. Its simplest version was already explained by Albert Einstein in 1905: when a photon is absorbed, it can cause an electron to leave its place and electric current starts to flow. When an electron is removed, a positively charged region stays behind - a so called "hole". Both the negatively charged electrons as well as the holes contribute to the electrical current.

"If these electrons and holes in the solar cell recombine instead of being transported away, nothing happens and the energy cannot be used", says Elias Assmann, who carried out a major part of the computer simulations at TU Vienna. "The crucial advantage of the new material is that on a microscopic scale, there is an electric field inside the material, which separates electrons and holes." This increases the efficiency of the solar cell.

Two Isolators Make a Metal

The oxides used to create the material are actually isolators. However, if two appropriate types of isolators are stacked, an astonishing effect can be observed: the surfaces of the material become metallic and conduct electrical current. "For us, this is very important. This effect allows us to conveniently extract the charge carriers and create an electrical circuit", says Karsten Held. Conventional solar cells made of silicon require metal wires on their surface to collect the charge carriers - but these wires block part of the light from entering the solar cell.

Not all photons are converted into electrical current with the same efficiency. For different colors of light, different materials work best. "The oxide heterostructures can be tuned by choosing exactly the right chemical elements", says Professor Blaha (TU Vienna). In the computer simulations, oxides containing Lanthanum and Vanadium were studied, because that way the materials operate especially well with the natural light of the sun. "It is even possible to combine different kinds of materials, so that different colors of light can be absorbed in different layers of the solar cell at maximum efficiency", says Elias Assmann.

Putting Theory into Practice

The team from TU Vienna was assisted by Satoshi Okamoto (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, USA) and Professor Giorgio Sangiovanni, a former employee of TU Vienna, who is now working at Würzburg University, Germany. In Würzburg, the new solar cells will now be build and tested. "The production of these solar cells made of oxide layers is more complicated than making standard silicon solar cells. But wherever extremely high efficiency or minimum thickness is required, the new structures should be able to replace silicon cells", Karsten Held believes.


Vienna University of Technology


Related Solar Cells Current Events and Solar Cells News Articles


Beating the limits of the light microscope, one photon at a time
The world's most advanced light microscopes allow us to see single molecules, proteins, viruses and other very small biological structures. But even the best microscopes have their limits.

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials
A family of compounds known as perovskites, which can be made into thin films with many promising electronic and optical properties, has been a hot research topic in recent years. But although these materials could potentially be highly useful in applications such as solar cells, some limitations still hamper their efficiency and consistency.

Virginia Tech researchers in the Antarctic discover new facets of space weather
A team of National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported researchers at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) discovered new evidence about how the Earth's magnetic field interacts with solar wind, almost as soon as they finished installing six data-collection stations across East Antarctic Plateau last January.

ORNL demonstrates large-scale technique to produce quantum dots
A method to produce significant amounts of semiconducting nanoparticles for light-emitting displays, sensors, solar panels and biomedical applications has gained momentum with a demonstration by researchers at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

Fighting the Zika virus with the power of supercomputing
Rutgers is taking a leading role in an IBM-sponsored World Community Grid project that will use supercomputing power to identify potential drug candidates to cure the Zika virus.

Cooling, time in the dark preserve perovskite solar power
A new study has found both the cause and a solution for the pesky tendency of perovskite solar cells to degrade in sunlight, a research breakthrough potentially removing one roadblock to commercialization for this promising technology.

This 'nanocavity' may improve ultrathin solar panels, video cameras and more
The future of movies and manufacturing may be in 3-D, but electronics and photonics are going 2-D; specifically, two-dimensional semiconducting materials.

Under Pressure: New technique could make large, flexible solar panels more feasible
A new, high-pressure technique may allow the production of huge sheets of thin-film silicon semiconductors at low temperatures in simple reactors at a fraction of the size and cost of current technology.

New research shows how silver could be the key to gold-standard flexible gadgets
Research published in the journals Materials Today Communications and Scientific Reports has described how silver nanowires are proving to be the ideal material for flexible, touch-screen technologies while also exploring how the material can be manipulated to tune its performance for other applications.

Stanford scientists improve perovskite solar-cell absorbers by giving them a squeeze
Solar cells made of artificial metallic crystalline structures called perovskites have shown great promise in recent years. Now Stanford University scientists have found that applying pressure can change the properties of these inexpensive materials and how they respond to light.
More Solar Cells Current Events and Solar Cells News Articles

Build Your Own Solar Panel: Generate Electricity from the Sun.

Build Your Own Solar Panel: Generate Electricity from the Sun.
by Phillip Hurley (Author)


Whether you're trying to get off the grid, or you just like to experiment, Build Your Own Solar Panel has all the information you need to build your own photovoltaic panel to generate electricity from the sun. Now available for the first time in print, this revised and expanded edition has easy-to-follow directions, and over 150 detailed photos and illustrations. Lists of materials, tools, and suppliers of PV cells are included. Every-day tools are all that you need to complete these projects.
Build Your Own Solar Panel will show you how to:
Design and build PV panels,
Customize panel output,
Make tab and bus ribbon,
Solder cell connections,
Wire a photovoltaic panel,
Purchase solar cells,
Test and rate PV cells,
Repair damaged solar cells,
Work...

The Physics of Solar Cells (Properties of Semiconductor Materials)

The Physics of Solar Cells (Properties of Semiconductor Materials)
by Jenny Nelson (Author)


This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the physics of the photovoltaic cell. It is suitable for undergraduates, graduate students, and researchers new to the field. It covers: basic physics of semiconductors in photovoltaic devices; physical models of solar cell operation; characteristics and design of common types of solar cell; and approaches to increasing solar cell efficiency. The text explains the terms and concepts of solar cell device physics and shows the reader how to formulate and solve relevant physical problems. Exercises and worked solutions are included. Contents: Photons In, Electrons Out: Basic Principles of PV; Electrons and Holes in Semiconductors; Generation and Recombination; Junctions; Analysis of the p n Junction; Monocrystalline Solar Cells; Thin Film...

Build A Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell System

Build A Solar Hydrogen Fuel Cell System
by Phillip Hurley (Author)


Learn how to construct and operate the components of a solar hydrogen fuel cell system: the fuel cell stack, the electrolyzer to generate hydrogen fuel, simple hydrogen storage, and solar panels designed specifically to run electrolyzers for hydrogen production. Complete, clear, illustrated instructions to build all the major components make it easy for the non-engineer to understand and work with this important new technology. Featured are the author's innovative and practical designs for efficient solar powered hydrogen production including: ESPMs (Electrolyzer Specific Photovoltaic Modules) – 40 watt solar panels designed specifically to run electrolyzers efficiently; a 40-80 watt electrolyzer for intermittant power from renewable energy sources such as solar and wind; and, a 6-12...

Physics of Solar Cells: From Basic Principles to Advanced Concepts

Physics of Solar Cells: From Basic Principles to Advanced Concepts
by Peter Würfel (Author)


Based on the highly regarded and extremely successful first edition, this thoroughly revised, updated and expanded edition contains the latest knowledge on the mechanisms of solar energy conversion.
The textbook describes in detail all aspects of solar cell function, the physics behind every single step, as well as all the issues to be considered when improving solar cells and their efficiency.
Requiring no more than standard physics knowledge, the book enables both students and researchers to understand the factors driving conversion efficiency and to apply this knowledge to their own solar cell development.
New exercises after each chapter help students to consolidate their freshly acquired knowledge, while the book also serves as a reference for researchers already working...

Solar Electricity Handbook - 2015 Edition: A simple, practical guide to solar energy - designing and installing solar PV systems.

Solar Electricity Handbook - 2015 Edition: A simple, practical guide to solar energy - designing and installing solar PV systems.
by Michael Boxwell (Author)


The Solar Electricity Handbook - 2015 Edition, is a simple, practical guide to using electric solar panels and designing and installing photovoltaic PV systems. Now in its ninth edition, the book assumes no previous knowledge of solar electric systems. The book explains how solar panels work and how they can be used. It explains the advantages of solar energy and the drawbacks that you need to take into account when designing a solar power system. As well as explaining the underlying principles, it provides a step-by-step guide so that you can successfully design and install a photovoltaic solar system from scratch. Unlike many guides, The Solar Electricity Handbook explains the principles behind the technology, allowing the reader to design solar energy systems with confidence. The book...

Solar II: How to Design, Build and Set Up Photovoltaic Components and Solar Electric Systems

Solar II: How to Design, Build and Set Up Photovoltaic Components and Solar Electric Systems
by Phillip Hurley (Author)


Now that you've built your solar panels, how do you set up a photovoltaic system and plug in? In Solar II, Phillip Hurley, author of Build Your Own Solar Panel, will show you how to:
Calculate daily electrical usage and needs
Plan and size your solar electric system
Build racks and charge controllers
Mount and orient PV panels
Wire solar panel arrays
Make a ventilated battery box
Wire battery arrays for solar panels
Install an inverter
Maintain solar batteries for optimum life and performance
Make your own combiner box, bus bars, and DC and AC service boxes
Solar II includes easy-to-follow directions with over 150 black & white photos, illustrations and schematics.

Materials Concepts for Solar Cells (Energy Futures)

Materials Concepts for Solar Cells (Energy Futures)
by Thomas Dittrich (Author)


"The book offers a well-balanced treatment of physical principles and materials-related concepts of solar cells, and considers both classical and new trends in this rapidly developing field . . . The book is perfectly structured, with a concise summary of the most important points provided for every chapter, and the description of the concepts well complemented by the tasks. I strongly recommend this book for students and scientists attracted to the renewable energy and the materials science fields." Andrey Rogach Chair Professor of Photonic Materials City University of Hong Kong “The book is of good pedagogical value. Students as well as teachers can make use of this either as a main textbook or as a support for their lessons. In general, the book is well-written and provides a solid...

Practical Photovoltaics: Electricity from Solar Cells, 3rd Edition

Practical Photovoltaics: Electricity from Solar Cells, 3rd Edition
by Richard J. Komp (Author), John Perlin (Foreword)


Practical Photovoltaics, the now-classic reference on solar electricity, offers a unique combination of technical discussion and practical advice. Physicist, lecturer, and solar-home dweller Richard Komp explains the "how" and the "how-to" of PV, while providing valuable information on the industry, new developments, and the future. The book is a comprehensive guide to the theory and reality of solar electricity, as well as a detailed installation and maintenance manual. A well-illustrated appendix offers step-by-step instructions for constructing your own solar module, a creative approach to demystifying the technology. Presented in a clear, concise, and understandable style, Dr. Komp's contribution to PV literature has been called the "best single reference available," "the easiest and...

Solar Cell Nanotechnology

Solar Cell Nanotechnology
by Atul Tiwari (Editor), Rabah Boukherroub (Editor), Maheshwar Sharon (Editor)


Focusing on the cutting-edge technologies available in the field of photovoltaics, Solar Cell Nanotechnology explores the latest research and development activities related to organic, inorganic, and hybrid materials being used in solar cell manufacturing. Several chapters are dedicated to explaining the fundamentals of photovoltaics and nanomaterials utilized in the manufacturing of solar cells. Other essential subjects, such as microcontact printing, plasmonic light trapping, outdoor and indoor efficiency, luminescent solar concentrators, and photon management in photovoltaics, are comprehensively reviewed. Written for a broad audience, this is an essential book for engineers, nanotechnologists, and materials scientists.

Solar Cell Radiation Handbook: Third Edition

Solar Cell Radiation Handbook: Third Edition
by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Author)


This handbook is intended to furnish the reader with the necessary tools to permit him to predict the degradation of solar cell electrical performance in any given space radiation environment. It begins with an introduction to solar cell theory, describing how cells are manufactured and how they are modeled mathematically. The interaction of energetic charged particle radiation with solar cells is discussed in detail and the concept of 1 MeV equivalent electron fluence is introduced. The space radiation environment is described and methods of calculating equivalent fluences for the space environment are developed. A computer program was written to perform the equivalent fluence calculations and a Fortran listing of the program is included. Finally, an extensive body of data detailing the...

© 2016 BrightSurf.com