Researchers at North Carolina State University have created nano-sized structures that could boost energy storage and solar cell technologies by mimicking a design from nature. The researchers used the semiconductor material geranium sulfide (GeS) to create petal-like layers that, when stacked, resemble a carnation or marigold flower.
The great thing about the GeS flowers is that they have a very large surface area, but are extremely thin.“This could significantly increase the capacity of lithium-ion batteries, for instance, since the thinner structure with larger surface area can hold more lithium ions. By the same token, this GeS flower structure could lead to increased capacity for supercapacitors, which are also used for energy storage," says Dr. Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper on the research.
The university says, "To create the flower structures, researchers first heat GeS powder in a furnace until it begins to vaporize. The vapor is then blown into a cooler region of the furnace, where the GeS settles out of the air into a layered sheet that is only 20 to 30 nanometers thick, and up to 100 micrometers long. As additional layers are added, the sheets branch out from one another, creating a floral pattern similar to a marigold or carnation."
These GeS flowers could also make for more efficient, thinner and safer solar cells. According to the university, the atomic structure of GeS makes it very good at absorbing solar energy and turning it into useable power and, unlike other great solar materials, GeS is non-toxic and inexpensive.