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Researchers uncover cheap way to produce solar cells from semiconductors

US research team develop low-cost high-efficiency solar cells using almost all semiconductor materials

Cheap solar cells could be produced from unsuitable semiconductors

US researchers have discovered a way to build inexpensive highly efficient solar cells from cheap semiconductor materials. Professor Alex Zettl's research group at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of California have developed a cost-cutting technique for producing solar cells from almost any semiconductor.

The approach unlocks the potential for more semiconductors to be used in solar cells. This includes metal oxides, sulfides and phosphides, which are currently unsuitable for solar cells because of the difficulties involved in their chemical tailoring.

Will Regan, the lead author of a paper based on the research, said this technique will provide existing solar manufacturers with a way to cost-effectively boost PV efficiency from more materials.

He said: “The new solar cell design is nearly universally applicable, allowing for the development of low-cost, high efficiency cells made from abundant, non-toxic materials.”

“Additionally, the design is relatively simple and can be made using mostly standard fabrication processes,” he added.

The developed method uses electric field doping instead of traditional doping techniques that can impair the solar cell’s qualities.

“The use of electric field doping avoids the need for chemical doping - a high temperature process which can damage the semiconductor properties and degrade solar cell performance,” Regan said.