Yvonne Carts-Powell

Two-for-one: nanotech improves solar power

In Science on May 4, 2011 at 10:36 am

Angela Belcher — the MIT professor who built a battery using a virus — and her research group have used viruses to do some of the assembly required to build solar cells with carbon nanotubes.  The virus-build structure is about a third more efficient than traditionally-build ones.    Read more from the MIT press release: Solar power goes viral or from the Nature Nanotechnology paper:Virus-templated self-assembled single-walled carbon nanotubes for highly efficient electron collection in photovoltaic devices.

Meanwhile, at Oak Ridge National Lab, Jun Xu and researchers are also used carbon nanotubes to boost the power of solar cells, but in a different way. They found a way to grow p-doped material over nanoscale cones of n-doped material. This improves the efficiency of transport of charge carriers. Read more from the Oak Ridge press release: New ORNL solar cell technology cranks up efficiency. Two papers on the concept were accepted for the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers photovoltaic specialist conference: “Efficient Charge Transport in Nanocone Tip-Film Solar Cells” and “Nanojunction solar cells based on polycrystalline CdTe films grown on ZnO nanocones.”

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