Solar power is considered one of the more attractive sources of clean energy thanks to how much energy pours onto the Earth from the Sun every second. Collecting that energy can be done in many ways using many different materials, such as silicon, quantum dots, and some organic semiconductors. Now researchers at MIT have created a new class of solar-power devices; two dimensional solar cells.
Since the discovery of graphene, an atom-thick plane of carbon, researchers have been searching out other 2D materials, as many have special properties. Among those materials are molybdenum disulfide and molybdenum diselenide, which are molecule-thick, semiconducting sheets. The MIT researchers combined these two materials, placing one on the other, to create a theoretical solar cell just one nanometer thick; the thinnest solar panel ever. Such an achievement could be very useful in situations that have weight restrictions such as spacecraft and avionics.
While being the smallest is definitely an achievement, there are two issues to be addressed before this technology can be used. One is that the cell is only predicted to have an efficiency between 1 and 2%, and the other is that both molybdenum disulfide and molybdenum diselenide are hard to produce. With time though, both issues may be overcome.