Self-Assembling Spherical Solar Cells Capture More Light Without the Use of Sun Trackers
By December 3rd, 2009Thursday, December 3, 2009 14:37 on
Scientists at the University of Illinois are working to develop a new and different technology to capturing more light. Instead of using parabolic mirrors to focus sunlight onto flatbed solar panels, they have now come up with self-assembling spherical solar cells being able to capture more sunlight than flat ones. Researcher have created these new microscale solar cells by using conventional lithography combined with self-assembly.
“Instead of a big slab of semiconductor fitted with concentrating lenses and motors to move it around, we want to make compact cells that still have a significant power output,” says Ralph Nuzzo, professor of chemistry at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Unlike flat surfaces, the curved surfaces capture more light because they have a greater surface area. But their underlying 3D structure allows them to self-assemble into a sphere. These sheets are made up of thin, high-quality silicon wafer that’s treated with conventional lithography. To produce a sphere, the scientists cut the silicon into a flower shape. Next they must to secure a small piece of glass inside by using an adhesive. Once the glass is assembled, it helps the structure to maintain its shape. Finally, as a drop of water placed in the center of the flower shape evaporates, surface tension pulls its petals up.
Presently the devices developed by the research team convert only about 1 percent of the light that hits them into electric energy. According to the scientists this new technique could be used to make new forms of solar cells and can be applied to other materials besides silicon. Now the Illinois group will work to make designs that further improve the cells’ light management and to improve the process.
[Source: Technology Review]
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