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A Canadian Midas touch for solar cells

By Dave Armstrong - 26 Sep 2014 17:10:0 GMT
A Canadian Midas touch for solar cells

The finest gold network of atoms is to be incorporated invisibly into solar modules and will solve many electricity supply problems with the increased efficiency produced. Amazingly, the cost in gold will be extremely low.; gold image; Credit: © Shutterstock

Of all the rapid advances with graphene and solar energy improvements, nobody expected the use of a metal the ancients loved – gold. Instead of using a quantity, though, the researchers at Western University in London Ontario have employed nanotechnology so that the cost of their “add-on” for solar modules is negligible

Reg Bauld, Mahdi Hesari, Mark S. Workentin and Giovanni Fanchini from Western Ontario publish these new findings in Nanoscale journal as - ”Tesselated gold nanostructures ---“.The add-ons are referred to as nanocomposite hole-blocking layers. Using indium tin oxide, the molecular gold film precursors are made of Au144(SCH2CH2Ph)60.

This film is then used to enhance the photoconversion efficiency of organic solar cells. Various gold structures could be produced using this method, but the star was tessellated networks known as TESS-AuNPs. This produced a 10% improvement in cell efficiency compared to a reference cell. Individual gold nanoparticles known as AuNP proved somewhat less efficient.

The most significant advance in this well-known property of large gold nanoparticles is that the TESS-AUNPs network has so little gold in it that it comprises 10,000 times less gold than normally-tiny nanoparticles. That’s exactly 144 atoms, as you can see in the formula! The same effect is obviously felt on the cost. With a working prototype this add-on is going to hit the streets, or at least our roofs, very soon

Unlike many solar cell advances, this one will be immediately available and will be usable for residential and commercial solar modules too. Giovanni Fanchini is the Canada Research Chair in Carbon-based Nanomaterials and Nano-optolectronics, which must mean he doesn’t get invited out much. He thinks that smaller electronics will also get this technology, in about 5 years. The advantage to 99% of phone users would be they wouldn’t need to plug it in(They forget to do that, you know.)

He also explains that the gold colour simply matches the Sun’s spectrum, meaning that the delicate fishnet of tessellated gold can amplify the amount of sunlight entering the photovoltaic cell. We all know how resistant gold is, so recycling the sub-microscopic particles is also easy at the end of a module’s life.

The whole renewables industry should get a boost, as more solar modules are fitted in countries such as the UK, playing catch-up with Germany, Australia and California as we recently mentioned in Solar electricity advance in the UK.