Washington DC: In a breakthrough discovery, scientists have revealed a new method which could lead to cheap, efficient metal-based solar cells.
Scientists from Rice's Laboratory for Nanophotonics described a new method that solar-panel designers could use to incorporate light-capturing nanomaterials into future designs.
Bob Zheng, a graduate student and postdoctoral research associate Alejandro Manjavacas created a methodology that solar engineers could use to determine the electricity-producing potential for any arrangement of metallic nanoparticles.
Zheng said that one of the interesting phenomena that occurred when someone shined light on a metallic nanoparticle was that you can excite some subset of electrons in the metal to a much higher energy level.
Today's most efficient photovoltaic cells use a combination of semiconductors that are made from rare and expensive elements like gallium and indium.
Zheng said that Plasmonic-based photovoltaics had low efficiencies, adding that it has not been entirely clear whether those arose from fundamental physical limitations or from less-than-optimal designs.
He said a recent example of such work comes from a pioneering experiment by another Rice graduate student, Ali Sobhani, where the absorption was concentrated near a metal semiconductor interface.
The scientists have spent years developing techniques to bolster the field-intensity enhancement of photonic structures for single-molecule sensing and other applications.
The findings are published in Nature Communications.