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Australia develops “world’s most efficient” thin film solar cells

“Bumpy” nanoparticles increase absolute efficiency to 8.1 per cent

Researchers now aim to improve the thin film efficiency to 10 per cent
Researchers now aim to improve the thin film efficiency to 10 per cent

Scientists at a technology university in Australia have manufactured what they claim are the world’s most efficient solar cells. The development team, at Australia’s Swinburne University of Technology, have manufactured nanoplasmonic solar cells with an absolute efficiency of 8.1 per cent. This makes the cells the “world’s most efficient”, according to the team behind the research.

The Swinburne team improved the thin film cell efficiency by embedding gold and silver nanoparticles into the cells. These nanoparticles increase the wavelength range of the absorbed light, improving the conversion of photons into electrons. The team used nucleated or ‘bumpy' nanoparticles to trap more light and achieve the current efficiency rate.

The technology could ultimately be used to cover conventional glass, enabling large glass buildings to be powered entirely by solar power.

Senior research fellow at Swinburne Dr Baohua Jia, said: "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.”

The thin film cells have attracted enormous research interest as a cheap alternative to bulk crystalline silicon cells, the Swinburne researchers said. However, the reduced thickness of the silicon layer makes it more difficult for them to absorb sunlight.

Professor Ming Gu, the project’s director, said: “Light trapping technology is of paramount importance to increase the performance of thin film solar cells and make them competitive with silicon cells.”

The researchers aim to achieve 10 per cent efficiency by mid 2012.