Follow Us

We use cookies to provide you with a better experience. If you continue to use this site, we'll assume you're happy with this. Alternatively, click here to find out how to manage these cookies

hide cookie message

All-carbon solar cell developed by Stanford researchers

Breakthrough could mean cheaper solar cells, but work remains before it can be commercialised

Article comments

A solar cell made entirely from carbon-based materials has been developed by researchers at Stanford University, they said yesterday.

The solar cell is still at the research stage, but if successfully refined and commercialised it could mean substantially cheaper cells because they wouldn't rely on expensive materials like indium.

Details of their research were published in the online edition of the journal ACS Nano.

"It took some time to develop this," said Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford and a senior author of the study.

Like a conventional solar cell, the Stanford prototype employs a photo-active layer that collects sunlight. That layer is sandwiched between two electrodes, and the flow of electrons from the photo-active layer to the electrodes creates the electrical current.

In today's commercial cells, those electrodes are made of conductive metals like indium tin oxide. Indium is a rare metal, making it expensive, and its price is set to rise as it becomes more difficult to mine and supply.

The Stanford cell replaces those metals with sheets of graphene that are a single atom thick and single-walled carbon nanotubes. The active layer in the centre is made of buckyballs, carbon molecules that are just 1 nanometer in diameter.

Carbon is one of the most abundant elements on the planet, so it's much cheaper than indium and similar rare metals.

But to date, the all-carbon solar cell isn't nearly as efficient as a conventional cell. In lab tests the Stanford team measured its efficiency at less than 1 percent, which is much less than commercial cells. Japan's Sharp, for example, said earlier this year it had developed a cell with 43.5% efficiency.

The low efficiency is due in part to the cell's absorption of light at near-infrared wavelengths. The researchers are working on cells that absorb a wider range of wavelengths.

"We need to make the materials better and improve the process for fabricating the cells so we get better collection of the charge and absorb sunlight," said Bao. "We've already started working on that."

The Stanford team has already applied for patents covering its work. It was funded by Stanford's Global Climate and Energy Project and the US Air Force Office for Scientific Research.



Share:

More from Techworld

More relevant IT news

Comments



Send to a friend

Email this article to a friend or colleague:

PLEASE NOTE: Your name is used only to let the recipient know who sent the story, and in case of transmission error. Both your name and the recipient's name and address will not be used for any other purpose.

Techworld White Papers

Choose – and Choose Wisely – the Right MSP for Your SMB

End users need a technology partner that provides transparency, enables productivity, delivers...

Download Whitepaper

10 Effective Habits of Indispensable IT Departments

It’s no secret that responsibilities are growing while budgets continue to shrink. Download this...

Download Whitepaper

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Information Archiving

Enterprise information archiving is contributing to organisational needs for e-discovery and...

Download Whitepaper

Advancing the state of virtualised backups

Dell Software’s vRanger is a veteran of the virtualisation specific backup market. It was the...

Download Whitepaper

Techworld UK - Technology - Business

Innovation, productivity, agility and profit

Watch this on demand webinar which explores IT innovation, managed print services and business agility.

Techworld Mobile Site

Access Techworld's content on the move

Get the latest news, product reviews and downloads on your mobile device with Techworld's mobile site.

Find out more...

From Wow to How : Making mobile and cloud work for you

On demand Biztech Briefing - Learn how to effectively deliver mobile work styles and cloud services together.

Watch now...

Site Map

* *