A team of researchers from
a boon for the local solar industry, a team of researchers from
Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology and Suntech Power
Holdings have developed the world’s most efficient broadband
nanoplasmonic solar cells.
In a paper published
in Nano Letters, the researchers describe how they have manufactured
thin film solar cells with an absolute efficiency of 8.1%.
research was conducted under the auspices of the Victoria-Suntech
Advanced Solar Facility (VSASF) at Swinburne, a $12 million program
jointly funded by the Victorian Government, Swinburne and Suntech. The
group is working to dramatically increase the efficiency of thin film
to Swinburne Professor Min Gu, Director of the VSASF, thin film cells
have attracted enormous research interest as a cheap alternative to bulk
crystalline silicon cells. However, the significantly reduced thickness
of their silicon layer makes it more difficult for them to absorb
trapping technology is of paramount importance to increase the
performance of thin film solar cells and make them competitive with
silicon cells,” Professor Gu said. “One of the main potential
applications of the technology will be to cover conventional glass,
enabling buildings and skyscrapers to be powered entirely by sunlight.”
VSASF group has been improving thin film cell efficiency by embedding
gold and silver nanoparticles into the cells. This increases the
wavelength range of the absorbed light, improving the conversion of
photons into electrons.
their most efficient cells yet, the researchers went one step further,
using what are known as nucleated or ‘bumpy’ nanoparticles.
Research Fellow at Swinburne Dr. Baohua Jia said: “The broadband
plasmonic effect is an exciting discovery of the team. It is truly a
collaborative outcome between Swinburne and Suntech over the last 12
Jia believes that this new technology will have an important impact on
the solar industry. “What we have found is that nanoparticles that have
an uneven surface scatter light even further into a broadband wavelength
range. This leads to greater absorption, and therefore improves the
cell’s overall efficiency.
Gu applauded the quick timeframe in which the research group has been
able to achieve 8.1% total efficiency, however he believes there is
still considerable scope to improve the cells and transform the way the
world sources energy.
are on a rapid upwards trajectory with our research and development.
With our current rate of progress we expect to achieve 10% efficiency by
mid 2012,” he said. “We are well on track to reach the VSASF’s target
to develop solar cells that are twice as efficient and run at half the
cost of those currently available.”
Gu said that another advantage of the group’s approach is that
nanoparticle integration is inexpensive and easy to upscale and
therefore can easily be transferred to the production line.
have been using Suntech solar cells from the outset, so it should be
very straightforward to integrate the technology into mass
manufacturing. We expect these cells to be commercially available by
CEO Dr Zhengrong Shi said: “Our team has achieved an impressive
milestone with the world record for the most efficient broadband
nanoplasmonic thin-film cell. This is an important step in demonstrating
the potential of nanotechnology in leading the next generation of solar
Nano Letters paper was authored by Dr Xi Chen, Dr Baohua Jia, Dr Jhantu
Saha, Mr Boyuan Cai, Dr Nicholas Stokes, and Professor Min Gu from
Swinburne and Dr Qi Qiao, Dr Yongqian Wang and Dr Zhengrong Shi from