Solar Cell Innovation: Silicon Nanoparticles Improve Performance

Solar is booming, as it should. Third generation solar cells are seeing rapid growth, organic solar is breaking records, and the solar power bikini is the latest rage. But don't count plain old silicon out of the game just yet. Munir Nayfeh (pictured), a physicist at the University of Illinois, has developed a process that harnesses more out of a sunny day in the sand.

"Integrating a high-quality film of silicon nanoparticles 1 nanometer in size directly onto silicon solar cells improves power performance by 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum." Says Nayfeh.

Furthermore, it was found that particles of 2.8 nanometers show an enhancement of around 67 percent in the ultraviolet range, and 10 percent in the visible spectrum. The improved performance highlights the importance of charge transport assisted by the nanostructured design created by the film of silicon nanoparticles.The researchers have patented the process for creating the silicon nanoparticles. To add the nanoparticles to the solar cell it is a simple process of dispersal in isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and pouring the solution on the raw solar cell. As the alcohol evaporates the nanoparticles self-assemble into a functional thin film. The process is so simple, it should be easy to incorporate into current manufacturing. Knowing the substance and size should give researchers a head start in determining the potential hazards of this type of coating in the environment. At any rate-this innovation should add a bit more juice to the solar powered bikini. Photo Credit to L. Brian Stauffer.

::University of Illinois-News

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