Small, tiny, light-emiting solar cells can be used to produce power for small homes, cars and electronics.
The technology could pave the way for future generation of photovollaic panels and potentially enable the commercialisation of renewable energy.
Key points: Light-emission solar cells that convert sunlight into electricity can be made of materials smaller than 100 nanometres in size.
The new technology could help make solar cells smaller than 1mm in size, which would be the smallest of any existing material.
The technology is the result of research by scientists at the University of Adelaide’s Centre for Nanotechnology and Nanoscience.
The team is working to create a small, lightweight solar cell that converts sunlight into power.
This is achieved by using graphene oxide (GO), which has previously been used to make a range of light-absorbing materials.
The work is being done in collaboration with the University’s Advanced Light Source and Advanced Solar Energy Centre.
“It’s a very low-cost, low-wattage technology, but it has the ability to deliver the very large energy output we wanted to achieve,” Dr David Sibley, who leads the team, said.
“We were able to get a very small device to work in an industrial setting, but also the ability for it to be produced in the lab and then scaled up to industrial scale, making it an exciting development for the next generation of solar cells.”
The team hopes to have their graphene oxide photovolaic cell, or GWNT, ready for commercialisation in 2018.
“In a nutshell, we have a small size, a very simple manufacturing process and it’s an affordable technology, it’s cheap to produce, it has very low operating costs, it can be scaled up and down,” Dr Sibleys said.
He said the technology could make solar energy more affordable for homes, vehicles and electronics, but the team also needed to make the materials smaller, to create the smallest possible device.
“The big challenge is, in order to make this material we have to make it very small,” Dr Gavrieli said.”[We need] a very thin film, we can’t just use a very thick film because you can’t actually see through it, it needs to be a very tiny film.”
“The challenge is to get the density right.
We need to have the correct density, because it needs a lot of energy.”
Dr Sibleies team is currently working with other scientists from the University to develop a similar solar cell made of graphene oxide.
The material is currently used to manufacture other light-blocking solar panels, but is unlikely to replace graphene oxide in the future, given its poor performance compared to other materials.
However, Dr Givial, who works with Dr Sibilityys, said the work was “extremely exciting”.
“The graphene oxide is a good candidate to produce a photovolaque material, because its a material that’s very inexpensive to make and very low density,” Dr Gillian said.
This research was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC).