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Nanotech enables large-area solar cell

Posted: 03 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cell? nanotechnology? photovoltaic cell?

Head of Bar-Ilan University's Nanotechnology Institute in Israel, Arie Zaban, claims he has created a solar cell 100 times bigger than the typical, using nanotechnology methods.

An expert in photovoltaics, the professor demonstrated how metallic wires mounted on conductive glass can form the basis of solar cells with efficiency similar to that of conventional, silicon-based cells, but that are much cheaper to produce.

While Zaban's earlier efforts produced photovoltaic cells 1cm? in size, he has now achieved a cell measuring 10cm x 10cm, which he claimed would boost the technique's usefulness in producing commercial amounts of solar power. "Initially, we created linked arrays of very small cells, which led to a loss of efficiency because the sunlight hitting the space between the cells was not converted to electricity," Zaban said.

According to Zaban, the cell is now a practical choice for solar energy production. "We've found a way to produce platinum nanodotstiny crystals measuring only a few nanometers in diameter. Thanks to this techniquenow under consideration for a patentwe reduced the amount of platinum needed by a factor of 40," he said.

In his previous research, Zaban developed a low-cost method of depositing semiconductor material in a sponge-like array on top of flexible plastic sheets. Key to the system is the use of an organic dye that allows the semiconductor, transparent in its natural form, to absorb light.

"Cost is an important factor in the success of any solar technology. To become widely adopted, solar cells must generate electricity at lower cost than what we now spend on fossil fuels. At the same time, we have to make the basic infrastructure extremely affordable because the third-world countries that stand to reap the most benefit from solar power usually lack the money to invest in it," Zaban said. "By making cells more efficient and keeping material costs down, nano-based techniques are moving us closer to that goal. Given the state of the technology, I believe that the new solar cells will be available commercially within the next five years."

- Amir Ben-Artzi
EE Times Europe

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