Roughing Up The Little Guys Helps Solar Power Capture

Stanford researchers have found a way to increase light energy absorption in solar cells – by taking off the kid gloves. 

Science is generally a world of sterile white suits and incredibly clean rooms, ones in which the smallest particle of dust is cause for a massive amount of panic.


When it comes to solar cells, however, it turns out getting a little bit rougher and tumble might be of benefit, especially when it comes to the tiniest of solar cells. That’s right – science beats up on the little guys.


While it has long been known that “roughening” the faces of solar cells helps to keep sunlight inside longer and therefore deposit more energy before leaving, this has allowed current solar technology to go only so far.


This is due to the limitations of “conventional” solar cells, which are macro in size (visible to we puny humans with the naked eye). In these cells, there is a finite amount of energy that can be absorbed from sunlight before it exits. According to Stanford researchers Zongfu Yu and Shanhui Fan, at smaller, nanoscale levels, the wave component of the wave/particle duality of light becomes extremely important.

They're not tiny: but they know a little bit about solar power.They're not tiny: but they know a little bit about solar power.


By creating cells that are less than one wavelength of visible light in size – down at the nanometer range – the Stanford team discovered that not only could light not find the exit door, but dropped 10 times more light energy in the process of trying to get the hell out.


Not only are the new cells being developed by the strategic Stanfordians cheaper to produce than silicon cells, they’re also made of organic materials.


By combining a small physical footprint, environmentally friendly creation materials and the fact that these things should cost companies a whole lot less to build, these scientists might just be on to something.


The hope is to mass-produce these little guys to take the place of their large-scale counterparts and assist in making solar power a viable world energy device rather than simply a by-product of brilliant science.


Science – now letting you design tiny objects and smack them around. Does it get any better?


Source: Stanford University