Suntech, Researchers Boost Solar Cell Efficiency
Suntech Power Holdings and a team of scientists at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology claim to have developed the world’s most efficient broadband nanoplasmonic solar cells. The team’s technology improved on existing thin-film solar cells by the incorporation of “bumpy” gold and silver nanoparticles. Thus far, the results seem impressive, as the researchers are claiming to have boosted the efficiency of thin-film solar cells to 8.1%. Gold and silver nanoparticles improve the efficiency of the solar cells because they are highly reflective – this reflectivity increases the wavelength of sunlight that the cells absorb. Nucleated, or “bumpy” nanoparticles carry this one step further because of the uneven nature of their surfaces, which causes light to be scattered and in so doing allows for greater absorption. While 8.1% might not sound like a lot, the researchers point out that it amounts to a “14.3% enhancement in the short-circuit photocurrent density and a 23% enhancement in the energy conversion efficiency,” which makes the 10% efficiency that they were aiming to achieve later in the year rather impressive. The research was performed at the Victoria-Suntech Advanced Solar Facility at Swinburne University, a $12 million program that was jointly funded by Swinburne University, the Victorian state government and Suntech. The full results of their study are published in the peer reviewed journal Nano Letters. The researchers claim that the process of embedding the nanoparticles is relatively inexpensive and that adding it to their production process is relatively simple. Suntech aims for the technology to be commercially available before 2017.