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Metallic sandwich could boost solar cell's output

United States America,Science/Tech, Fri, 07 Dec 2012 IANS

Washington, Dec 7 (IANS) A nano 'sandwich' comprising a metal and plastic combo could boost the efficiency of organic solar cells, according to researchers.

Researchers, led by Stephen Chou, professor of engineering at Princeton University, were able to increase the efficiency of the solar cells 175 percent.

Chou said the research team used nanotechnology to overcome two primary challenges that cause solar cells to lose energy: light reflecting from the cell, and the inability to fully capture light that enters the cell, the journal Optics Express reported.

With their new metallic sandwich, the researchers were able to address both problems.

The sandwich -- called a subwavelength plasmonic cavity -- has an extraordinary ability to dampen reflection and trap light, according to a Princeton statement.

The new technique allowed Chou's team to create a solar cell that only reflects about four percent of light and absorbs as much as 96 percent.

It demonstrates 52 percent higher efficiency in converting light to electrical energy than a conventional solar cell.

That is for direct sunlight. The structure achieves even more efficiency for light that strikes the solar cell at large angles, which occurs on cloudy days or when the cell is not directly facing the sun.

By capturing these angled rays, the new structure boosts efficiency by an additional 81 percent, leading to the 175 percent total increase.

Chou said the system is ready for commercial use although, as with any new product, there will be a transition period in moving from the lab to mass production.



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