Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Photovoltaic module


With particular focus on bulk heterojunction solar cells incorporating ZnO nanorods, we study how different annealing environments (air or Zn environment) and temperatures impact on the photoluminescence response. Our work gives new insight into the complex defect landscape in ZnO, and it also shows how the different defect types can be manipulated. We have determined the emission wavelengths for the two main defects which make up the visible band, the oxygen vacancy emission wavelength at approximately 530 nm and the zinc vacancy emission wavelength at approximately 630 nm. The precise nature of the defect landscape in the bulk of the nanorods is found to be unimportant to photovoltaic cell performance although the surface structure is more critical. Annealing of the nanorods is optimum at 300[degree sign]C as this is a sufficiently high temperature to decompose Zn(OH)2 formed at the surface of the nanorods during electrodeposition and sufficiently low to prevent ITO degradation.

Concepts: Light, Zinc, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Indium tin oxide, Visible spectrum, Photovoltaic module, Band gap


Man’s harvesting of photovoltaic energy requires the deployment of extensive arrays of solar panels. To improve both the gathering of thermal and photovoltaic energy from the sun we have examined the concept of biomimicry in white butterflies of the family Pieridae. We tested the hypothesis that the V-shaped posture of basking white butterflies mimics the V-trough concentrator which is designed to increase solar input to photovoltaic cells. These solar concentrators improve harvesting efficiency but are both heavy and bulky, severely limiting their deployment. Here, we show that the attachment of butterfly wings to a solar cell increases its output power by 42.3%, proving that the wings are indeed highly reflective. Importantly, and relative to current concentrators, the wings improve the power to weight ratio of the overall structure 17-fold, vastly expanding their potential application. Moreover, a single mono-layer of scale cells removed from the butterflies' wings maintained this high reflectivity showing that a single layer of scale cell-like structures can also form a useful coating. As predicted, the wings increased the temperature of the butterflies' thorax dramatically, showing that the V-shaped basking posture of white butterflies has indeed evolved to increase the temperature of their flight muscles prior to take-off.

Concepts: Sun, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Lepidoptera, Photovoltaic module, Butterfly, Photovoltaic array, Pieridae


Silicon nanowire and nanopore arrays promise to reduce manufacturing costs and increase the power conversion efficiency of photovoltaic devices. So far, however, photovoltaic cells based on nanostructured silicon exhibit lower power conversion efficiencies than conventional cells due to the enhanced photocarrier recombination associated with the nanostructures. Here, we identify and separately measure surface recombination and Auger recombination in wafer-based nanostructured silicon solar cells. By identifying the regimes of junction doping concentration in which each mechanism dominates, we were able to design and fabricate an independently confirmed 18.2%-efficient nanostructured ‘black-silicon’ cell that does not need the antireflection coating layer(s) normally required to reach a comparable performance level. Our results suggest design rules for efficient high-surface-area solar cells with nano- and microstructured semiconductor absorbers.

Concepts: Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion efficiency, Germanium, Photovoltaic module, P-n junction, Carrier generation and recombination


The fovea centralis is a closely-packed vertical array of inverted-cone photoreceptor cells located in the retina that is responsible for high acuity binocular vision. The cones are operational in well-lit environments and are responsible for trapping the impinging illumination. We present the vertical light-funnel silicon array as a light-trapping technique for photovoltaic applications that is bio-inspired by the properties of the fovea centralis. We use opto-electronic simulations to evaluate the performance of light-funnel solar cell arrays. Light-funnel arrays present ~65% absorption enhancement compared to a silicon film of identical thickness and exhibit power conversion efficiencies that are 60% higher than those of optimized nanowire arrays of the same thickness although nanowire arrays consist of more than 2.3 times the amount of silicon. We demonstrate the superior absorption of the light-funnel arrays as compared with recent advancements in the field. Fabrication of silicon light-funnel arrays using low-cost processing techniques is demonstrated.

Concepts: Retina, Eye, Photoreceptor cell, Visual perception, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Rod cell, Photovoltaic module


Growth of semiconducting nanostructures on graphene would open up opportunities for the development of flexible optoelectronic devices, but challenges remain in preserving the structural and electrical properties of graphene during this process. We demonstrate growth of highly uniform and well-aligned ZnO nanowire arrays on graphene by modifying the graphene surface with conductive polymer interlayers. Based on this structure, we then demonstrate graphene cathode-based hybrid solar cells using two different photoactive materials - PbS quantum dots and the conjugated polymer P3HT - with AM 1.5G power conversion efficiencies of 4.2% and 0.5%, respectively, approaching the performance of ITO-based devices with similar architectures. Our method preserves beneficial properties of graphene and demonstrates that it can serve as a viable replacement for ITO in various photovoltaic device configurations.

Concepts: Electricity, Energy, Semiconductor, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Photodiode, Photovoltaic module, Band gap


In contrast to pristine zinc phthalocyanine (1), zinc phthalocyanine based oPPV-oligomers (2-4) of different chain lengths interact tightly and reversibly with graphite, affording stable and finely dispersed suspensions of mono- to few-layer graphene-nanographene (NG)-that are photoactive. The p-type character of the oPPV backbones and the increasing length of the oPPV backbones facilitate the overall π-π interactions with the graphene layers. In NG/2, NG/3, and NG/4 hybrids, strong electronic coupling between the individual components gives rise to charge transfer from the photoexcited zinc phthalocyanines to NG to form hundreds of picoseconds lived charge transfer states. The resulting features, namely photo- and redoxactivity, serve as incentives to construct and to test novel solar cells. Solar cells made out of NG/4 feature stable and repeatable photocurrent generation during several ‘on-off’ cycles of illumination with monochromatic IPCE values of around 1%.

Concepts: Photoelectric effect, Cadmium, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Length, Photovoltaic module, Band gap, Phthalocyanine


The electrostatic alignment and directed assembly of semiconductor nanowires into macroscopic, centimeter-long yarns is demonstrated. Different morphologies can be produced, including longitudinally segmented/graded yarns or mixed composition fibers. Nanowire yarns display long range photoconductivities and open up exciting opportunities for potential use in future nanowire-based textiles or in solar photovoltaics.

Concepts: Energy, Nanowire, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Solar energy, Photovoltaic module, Photovoltaic array, Waldpolenz Solar Park


Organic solar cells have the potential to become a low-cost sustainable energy source. Understanding the photoconversion mechanism is key to the design of efficient organic solar cells. In this review, we discuss the processes involved in the photo-electron conversion mechanism, which may be subdivided into exciton harvesting, exciton transport, exciton dissociation, charge transport and extraction stages. In particular, we focus on the role of energy transfer as described by F¨orster resonance energy transfer (FRET) theory in the photoconversion mechanism. FRET plays a major role in exciton transport, harvesting and dissociation. The spectral absorption range of organic solar cells may be extended using sensitizers that efficiently transfer absorbed energy to the photoactive materials. The limitations of F¨orster theory to accurately calculate energy transfer rates are discussed. Energy transfer is the first step of an efficient two-step exciton dissociation process and may also be used to preferentially transport excitons to the heterointerface, where efficient exciton dissociation may occur. However, FRET also competes with charge transfer at the heterointerface turning it in a potential loss mechanism. An energy cascade comprising both energy transfer and charge transfer may aid in separating charges and is briefly discussed. Considering the extent to which the photo-electron conversion efficiency is governed by energy transfer, optimisation of this process offers the prospect of improved organic photovoltaic performance and thus aids in realising the potential of organic solar cells.

Concepts: Energy, Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Organic solar cell, Energy conversion, Förster resonance energy transfer, Photovoltaic module, Alternative energy


We demonstrate series-integrated multijunction organic photovoltaics fabricated monolithically by vapor-deposition in a transposed subcell order with the near-infrared-absorbing subcell in front of the green-absorbing subcell. This transposed subcell order is enabled by the highly complementary absorption spectra of a near-infrared-absorbing visibly-transparent subcell and a visible-absorbing subcell and motivated by the non-spatially-uniform optical intensity in nanoscale photovoltaics. The subcell order and thicknesses are optimized via transfer-matrix formalism and short-circuit current simulations. An efficient charge recombination zone consisting of layers of BCP/Ag/MoOx leads to negligible voltage and series-resistance losses. Under 1-sun illumination the multijunction solar cells exhibit a power conversion efficiency of 5.5 ± 0.2% with an FF of 0.685 ± 0.002 and a V(OC) of 1.65 ± 0.02 V, corresponding to the sum of the V(OC) of the component subcells. These devices exhibit a broad spectral response (in the wavelength range of 350 nm to 850 nm) but are limited by subcell external quantum efficiencies between 20% and 30% over the photoactive spectrum.

Concepts: Light, Solar cell, Absorption, Photovoltaics, Energy conversion, Energy conversion efficiency, Spectrum, Photovoltaic module


Since the 1970s, installed solar photovoltaic capacity has grown tremendously to 230 gigawatt worldwide in 2015, with a growth rate between 1975 and 2015 of 45%. This rapid growth has led to concerns regarding the energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions of photovoltaics production. We present a review of 40 years of photovoltaics development, analysing the development of energy demand and greenhouse gas emissions associated with photovoltaics production. Here we show strong downward trends of environmental impact of photovoltaics production, following the experience curve law. For every doubling of installed photovoltaic capacity, energy use decreases by 13 and 12% and greenhouse gas footprints by 17 and 24%, for poly- and monocrystalline based photovoltaic systems, respectively. As a result, we show a break-even between the cumulative disadvantages and benefits of photovoltaics, for both energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, occurs between 1997 and 2018, depending on photovoltaic performance and model uncertainties.

Concepts: Solar cell, Photovoltaics, Natural gas, Renewable energy, Solar energy, Photovoltaic module, Greenhouse gas, World energy resources and consumption