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Carbon Solar Cells

Solar cells are the greatest hope for mankind with a shortage of fossil fuel.

We read a lot about solar cells and improvements in this field but a true revolution in solar cells is not happening. There are many reasons for the gap between solar cells and ordinary man but one of the main handbrakes is the expense of the materials used.

Some recent breakthrough research at Stanford University looks promising and will give hope to the solar cell field using an inexpensive substitute, carbon.

The research team has successfully built a thin film solar cell prototype which is coated with carbon. Carbon and its allied products are remarkably cheap and abundant compared to pure silicon which the traditional solar cell uses.

“Carbon has the potential to deliver high performance at a low cost,” said study senior author Zhenan Bao, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford. “To the best of our knowledge, this is the first demonstration of a working solar cell that has all of the components made of carbon. This study builds on previous work done in our lab.”

Another blessing of using carbon based solar cells is that it is quite flexible which allows one to use them in various applications whereas solar cells built with silicon are rigid. They can even be formed by simply “coating” with the carbon solution. This coating technique will reduce the manufacturing costs which have been a serious problem previously.

The team believes that these cells can be built with basic steps and will not require as many tools as silicon solar cells.

However, the team does face some challenges with carbon solar cells but they are in the process of increasing the efficiency with the help of nanotechnology. “Roughness can short-circuit the device and make it hard to collect the current,” Bao said. “We have to figure out how to make each layer very smooth by stacking the nanomaterial really well.”

Future research of this team will be to increase the range of wavelength that this material can absorb thereby trapping more sunlight.

Image and article source :  Stanford News

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