Reserachers at MIT found ways to precisely control the shape and position of patterned nanocrystals…paving the way for more efficient solar panels. Current nanocrystal films have defects that limit their capabilities. The new defect-free films conduct electricity 180 TIMES more efficiently than their predecessors.
Also, the process is able to create patterns with features that are 30 nanometers across, on par with the finest electronic production processes today. In this range, the crystals can be tuned to both emit and absorb a wide range of colors of light…much better than current solar cells.
Their research has support from the U.S Army Research Office, the Department of Energy and Samsung.
Reference: Tamar S. Mentzel, Darcy D. Wanger, Nirat Ray, Brian J. Walker, David Strasfeld, Moungi G. Bawendi, and Marc A. Kastner, Nanopatterned Electrically Conductive Films of Semiconductor Nanocrystals, Nano Letters, 2012, DOI: 10.1021/nl3022863
Light is comprised of electromagnetic waves that are several nanometers in length. Capturing light and efficiently converting it to electricity requires electronic features that are equally small. Commercial cells only convert 20% of the sun’s power, and even the best cells only achieve 40%. It makes sense that NANOTECHNOLOGY holds the key to unlocking the sun’s full potential.
There are several other nano-technologies being explored for this purpose, including quantum dots, buckyballs, and nano-scale rectifying antenas (nantennas). These promise to push efficiencies all the way to 80 or 90% within 10 years. When combined with more efficient manufacturing technologies, by 2020 solar could cost HALF as much as coal.