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Nano-Sandwich Technique Makes Solar Cells Thinner
 
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Nano-Sandwich Technique Makes Solar Cells Thinner  
 
Researchers now make solar cells by using a sandwich design with an ultra-thin active layer of amorphous silicon just 70nm thick.    
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Friday, June 29, 2012 Researchers from North Carolina State University have come up with a way to create much slimmer thin-film solar cells with just the same efficiency. Making the cells thinner is expected to decrease manufacturing costs for the technology, the US researchers claimed.

“We were able to create solar cells using a ‘nanoscale sandwich’ design with an ultra-thin ‘active’ layer,” says Dr Linyou Cao, an assistant professor of materials science and engineering at NC State and co-author of a paper describing the research. “For example, we created a solar cell with an active layer of amorphous silicon that is only 70 nanometres (nm) thick. This is a significant improvement, because typical thin-film solar cells currently on the market that also use amorphous silicon have active layers between 300 and 500 nm thick.” The “active” layer in thin-film solar cells is the layer of material that actually absorbs solar energy for conversion into electricity or chemical fuel.

Nano-Sandwich Technique,Solar Cells,cheaper




“The technique we’ve developed is very important because it can be generally applied to many other solar cell materials, such as cadmium telluride, copper indium gallium selenide, and organic materials,” Cao adds.

Though it relies largely on conventional manufacturing processes, the nano-sandwich technique results in a very different finished product. The first step includes creating a pattern on the substrate using standard lithography techniques, which then outlines structures made of transparent, dielectric material measuring between 200 and 300 nm. The next step includes coating the substrate and the nanostructures with an extremely thin layer of active material, such as amorphous silicon. This active layer is then covered by the researchers with another layer of dielectric material. This is done to create a thin film with raised surfaces evenly spaced all along the film.

“One key aspect of this technique is the design of the ‘nanoscale sandwich’, with the active materials in the middle of two dielectric layers. The nanostructures act as very efficient optical antennas,” Cao says, “focussing the solar energy into the active material. This focussing means we can use a thinner active layer without sacrificing performance. In the conventional thin-film design, using a thinner active layer would impair the solar cell’s efficiency.”

Monika Bhati, EFYTIMES News Network


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