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01/28/2013

Solar Cell Efficiency Upgrades?

 
Is solar truly the renewable energy to watch?  Many recent developments may push the technology towards affordability.

Solar energy is getting cheaper.  Solar energy is getting more efficient.  In the facility management and building world today, it’s almost impossible to maneuver without hearing about the benefits of “the one” renewable energy.  Everyday new technology updates and manufacturing techniques are emerging that may place solar squarely on top of the sustainable soiree.  Today is no different, as computer simulations by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and in Hungary are using an exotic form of silicon to improve the efficiency of solar cells.

Solar cells are based on the photoelectric effect: a photon, or particle of light, hits a silicon crystal and generates a negatively charged electron and a positively charged hole. Collecting those electron-hole pairs generates electric current.

Conventional solar cells generate one electron-hole pair per incoming photon, and have a theoretical maximum efficiency of 33 percent. One exciting new route to improved efficiency is to generate more than one electron-hole pair per photon, said Giulia Galli, professor of chemistry at UC Davis and co-author of the paper.

"This approach is capable of increasing the maximum efficiency to 42 percent, beyond any solar cell available today, which would be a pretty big deal," says lead author Stefan Wippermann, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Davis.

"In fact, there is reason to believe that if parabolic mirrors are used to focus the sunlight on such a new-paradigm solar cell, its efficiency could reach as high as 70 percent," says Wippermann.

Galli said that nanoparticles have a size of nanometers, typically just a few atoms across. Because of their small size, many of their properties are different from bulk materials. In particular, the probability of generating more than one electron-hole pair is much enhanced, driven by an effect called "quantum confinement." Experiments to explore this paradigm are being pursued by researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colo., as well as at UC Davis.

"But with nanoparticles of conventional silicon, the paradigm works only in ultraviolet light," says Wippermann. "This new approach will become useful only when it is demonstrated to work in visible sunlight."

The researchers simulated the behavior of a structure of silicon called silicon BC8, which is formed under high pressure but is stable at normal pressures, much as diamond is a form of carbon formed under high pressure but stable at normal pressures.

The computer simulations were run through the National Energy Research Scientific Supercomputing Center at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory, which granted the project 10 million hours of supercomputer time.

The simulations demonstrated that nanoparticles of silicon BC8 indeed generate multiple electron-hole pairs per photon even when exposed to visible light.

"This is more than an academic exercise. A Harvard-MIT paper showed that when normal silicon solar cells are irradiated with laser light, the energy the laser emits may create a local pressure high enough to form BC8 nanocrystals. Thus, laser or chemical pressure treatment of existing solar cells may turn them into these higher-efficiency cells," says co-author Gergely Zimanyi, professor of physics at UC Davis.

Other authors of the paper are Marton Voros and Adam Gali at the Budapest University of Technology and Economics, Hungary.

The work was funded by a National Science Foundation Solar Collaborative grant awarded to Zimanyi, Galli and colleagues at UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz in 2011. The project brings together experts in material science, chemistry, computer simulations and statistics to develop new approaches to solar power.

 


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Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

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http://news.mehvac.com/hhlaunch/


Visit our website today to learn about the design flexibility of a Morton building and the endless possibilities of partnering with our designBUILD team.


Wood construction is both cost and energy efficient. Check out Morton Buildings and our designBUILD team online today to discover all the benefits of post-frame construction.


When choosing a metal-clad building for your next construction project, consider Morton Buildings, Inc., and their designBUILD team, we’ll make your dream a reality.

We Can Help You Reduce Energy by 30%

Our mission is to help our customers manage their buildings' energy costs, improve reliability, and enhance performance while having a positive impact on the environment.
CLICK HERE to find out how.

Mitsubishi Electric Cooling & Heating’s new H2i R2-Series heat pumps provide year-round comfort, even in extreme climates. With 100% heating capacity down to 0° F outdoor ambient and simultaneous heating and cooling down to -4° F, our hyper-heating systems bring highly responsive multi-zone comfort to your projects, regardless of climate zone.

http://news.mehvac.com/hhlaunch/


 
03/03/2015

GSA announces plans for construction and repair projects.

03/03/2015

Expanded choices offer climate-friendly solutions.

03/02/2015

New technology could slash consumption up to 30%.

02/27/2015

Design is low-cost and green while providing more energy storage.

02/26/2015

LEED, IgCC, Standard 189.1 will work in harmony.

02/25/2015

Standard 189.1 seeks to expand renewable energy definition.

02/24/2015

Efficient construction techniques improve housing affordability.

02/23/2015

Guidance to improve energy efficiency of all aspects of data center operation.

02/20/2015

Model shows new technology could keep buildings standing after disasters.

02/19/2015

Expected to produce 550 megawatts of renewable energy.

02/18/2015

Best practices for infection prevention linked to hand irritation.

02/17/2015

State policies may not cut greenhouse gas emissions.

02/16/2015

New materials could cut initial costs for solar technology.

02/13/2015

Fannie Mae recognizes value of sustainable design.

02/12/2015

Localized technology could dramatically cut HVAC energy usage.

02/11/2015

Government energy consumption continues its decline.

02/10/2015

Study shows renewable option has economic potential.

02/09/2015

Proposed guideline would standardize collision deterrence testing.

02/06/2015

Illinois repeats as top state for green-certified buildings.

02/05/2015

New system to help FMs find the greenest products.

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