Putting the 'Thin' in Thin Film Solar CellCategory: Science & Technology
Posted: June 25, 2012 04:23PM
Two of the primary focuses of research into solar cells are to make them more efficient and cheaper to make. The most obvious way to make them cheaper is to reduce how much material is used in them, but this often has the side-effect and impairing performance. Researchers at North Carolina State University however have developed a geometry which greatly reduces the amount of material needed for thin film solar cells.
Thin films are exactly what the name suggests and in the case of thin film solar cells, the active layer is about 300-500 nm thick. The North Carolina researchers however have successfully found a way to bring the thickness down to about 70 nm, without sacrificing efficiency. The key was to use a special nanostructure to focus light into the active material, in this case amorphous silicon.
Cutting down on the thickness that much could greatly cut down on manufacturing costs, and make these more economically viable. Fortunately current manufacturing practices are already capable of producing the required nanostructure. Also, though the researchers worked only with amorphous silicon for the actual photovoltaic material, they are confident this technique can be applied to other materials and improve other kinds of solar cells.