02 November 2012

Researchers unveil first all-carbon solar cell

Stanford University scientists have built the first ever solar cell made entirely of carbon, a promising alternative to the expensive materials used in photovoltaic devices today.

"Carbon has the potential to deliver high performance at a low cost," said professor of chemical engineering, Zhenan Bao. "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."

Unlike rigid silicon solar panels that adorn many rooftops, Stanford's thin film prototype is made of carbon materials that can be coated from solution. "Perhaps in the future we can look at alternative markets where flexible carbon solar cells are coated on the surface of buildings, on windows or on cars to generate electricity," Bao said.

The researchers estimate that the coating technique also has the potential to reduce manufacturing costs. "Processing silicon-based solar cells requires a lot of steps," Bao added. "But our entire device can be built using simple coating methods that don't require expensive tools and machines."

The experimental solar cell consists of a photoactive layer, which absorbs sunlight, sandwiched between two electrodes. In a typical thin film solar cell, the electrodes are made of conductive metals and indium tin oxide (ITO).

For the study, Bao and her colleagues replaced the silver and ITO used in conventional electrodes with graphene – sheets of carbon that are one atom thick –and single-walled carbon nanotubes that are 10,000 times narrower than a human hair.

For the active layer, the scientists used a material made of carbon nanotubes and 'buckyballs' – football-shaped carbon molecules just one nanometre in diameter.

"Every component in our solar cell, from top to bottom, is made of carbon materials," Bao said. "Other groups have reported making all-carbon solar cells, but they were referring to just the active layer in the middle, not the electrodes."

One drawback of the all-carbon prototype is that it primarily absorbs near-infrared wavelengths of light, contributing to a laboratory efficiency of less than 1% – much lower than commercially available solar cells.
"We clearly have a long way to go on efficiency," Bao concluded. "But with better materials and better processing techniques, we expect that the efficiency will go up quite dramatically."

Author
Laura Hopperton

Supporting Information

Websites
http://www.stanford.edu/

This material is protected by Findlay Media copyright
See Terms and Conditions.
One-off usage is permitted but bulk copying is not.
For multiple copies contact the sales team.

Do you have any comments about this article?


Add your comments

Name
 
Email
 
Comments
 

Your comments/feedback may be edited prior to publishing. Not all entries will be published.
Please view our Terms and Conditions before leaving a comment.

Related Articles

Amp works at 50% efficiency

Researchers from the Universities of Bristol and Cardiff have created an ...

Materials breakthrough

A technique to study the interface between materials, developed at the National ...

Quantum logic gate created

Professor Gerhard Rempe, director of the Max Planck Institute of Quantum ...

Down to the wire

Once the plain old telephone service, the role of the telephone wire continues ...

Within touching distance

Graphene is starting to filter onto the market. HEAD claims its tennis racquets ...

Making light work of photonics

Today's world is permeated by electronics, from industry to communications, ...

NI Trend Watch 2014

This report from National Instruments summarises the latest trends in the ...

Capactive sensing

This whitepaper looks at a number of capacitive sensing applications to ...

Transparent Electronics Market

Emerging market opportunity analyst, NanoMarkets, believes that three major ...

Embedded World: Avnet Memec

Avnet Memec has announced it will be launching a new energy harvesting ...

Junction box from TE

TE Connectivity has released a new low profile junction box for BIPV ...

LDOs minimise board space

ON Semiconductor has announced the introduction of five small package, low ...

BEEAs 2013

9th October 2014, 8 Northumberland, London

Self-destructing electronics

Researchers at Iowa State University have created transient electronics that ...

MEMS switch for 'true 4G'

General Electric has created a 3GHz RF MEMS switch that can handle up to 5kW of ...

Smart fabrics developed at NPL

NPL has developed a new method to produce conductive textiles. The technique ...

Electronic charge to 800mph

Breaking the land speed record would require a very special blend of latest ...

Flash drives semi technologies

Demand for NAND flash is said to be growing at 45% per year, driven mainly by ...

Top tech trends for 2013

Bee Thakore, European technical marketing manager for element14, gives an ...

Nathan Hill, director, NGI

Research into graphene won Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov the Nobel prize in ...

Brent Hudson, Sagentia

Sagentia's ceo tells Graham Pitcher how the consulting company is anticipating ...

Prof Donal Bradley, Imperial

Graham Pitcher talks to a researcher who was 'there at the start' of the ...