‘Lego brick’ studs improve solar panel efficiency
Scientists at Imperial College have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by covering their surface with aluminium studs. Apparently these will bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer, and improve efficiency by up to 22 per cent.
At the microscopic level, says the university, these studs create a resemblance to the interlocking building bricks familiar to children throgh the ages.
“In recent years both the efficiency and cost of commercial solar panels have improved but they remain expensive compared to fossil fuels. As the absorbing material alone can make up half the cost of a solar panel our aim has been to reduce to a minimum the amount that is needed,” said lead author Dr Nicholas Hylton from the Department of Physics at Imperial College London.
“The success of our technology, in combination with modern anti-reflection coatings, will take us a long way down the path towards highly efficient and thin solar cells that could be available at a competitive price.”
The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports. See “Loss mitigation in plasmonic solar cells: aluminium nanoparticles for broadband photocurrent enhancements in GaAs photodiodes” [doi:10.1038/srep02874]
The research was led by scientists from Imperial College London and involved partners from the University of Tokyo, IMEC and Soochow University in China.
It was funded by the European Commission under a FP7 project known as ‘PRIMA – Plasmon Resonance for IMproving the Absorption of solar cells’ (grant number 248154) as well as the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK (EPSRC), the Marie Curie fellowships scheme and the Leverhulme Trust.