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New material could make solar panels cheaper and more efficient

Washington, Dec. 12 : A new ceramic material has paved the way to make solar panel design cheaper, more efficient, and requiring less manufacturing time.


The new material has been developed by a team led by scientists at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.

The tests were conducted, in part, at the Advanced Photon Source housed at the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory.

The team created a new class of ceramic materials that has three main benefits. First, it can produce a solar panel that is thinner than today's silicon-based market leaders by using one material to do the work of two.

Second, it uses cheaper materials than those used in today's high-end thin-film solar panels.
Third, the material is ferroelectric, which means it can switch polarity, a key trait for exceeding the theorized energy-efficiency limits of today's solar cell material.

Part of the reason solar panels have low efficiency is that the particles collected from the sun enter the solar cell and spread out in all directions.

Getting them all to flow one direction typically requires layers of different channeling material. Each time the particles pass between these layers some get lost, decreasing the energy efficiency of the solar cell.

The team's new design uses fewer layers to limit loss and uses ferroelectric material to use up less energy channeling the particles.

The material, uses perovskite crystals made with a combination of potassium niobate and barium nickel niobate, and can absorb six times more energy and transfer a photocurrent 50 times denser.

The work has been published in the journal Nature.

--ANI (Posted on 13-12-2013)

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