Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a new type of ultra-thin solar cell that can capture up to 65% of sunlight. The cells are made from silicon, but are much thinner than traditional solar cells, and can be produced using a standard printing process.
The new technology builds on previous work on ultra-thin crystalline structures and allows for more than double the solar light absorption of a traditional solar cell. This could lead to significantly increased efficiency in solar energy production. Imagine that we are able to generate more energy with fewer solar panels and a surface to cover. More applications will come within reach and sustainable development will move even faster. Well, how does this work? The ultra-thin solar cells are made of silicon, but use a disordered hyperuniform pattern to allow for increased light absorption. This is in contrast to traditional solar cells, which use a uniform slab of silicon. The new technology is still in development, but the researchers estimate that it could lead to a photovoltaic cell with higher efficiency – significantly higher than the currently available technology.
Dr. Marian Florescu, from the University of Surrey’s Advanced Technology Institute, said: “One of the challenges of working with silicon is that nearly a third of light bounces straight off it without being absorbed and the energy harnessed. A textured layer across the silicon helps tackle this and our disordered, yet hyperuniform, honeycomb design is particularly successful.
“There's a lot of potential for using ultra-thin photovoltaic solar. Given how light they are, they will be quite useful in space, and they may make new extra-terrestrial projects feasible. We're hoping there will be cost savings on Earth as well as the possibility to bring more advantages from the internet of things and create zero-energy buildings powered locally since they utilize so much less silicon.”
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