A new ‘wavy’ solar-cell design could drive down the cost and improve the efficiency of the technology.
Published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, researchers from the University of Sheffield and Power Roll revealed a new type of solar cell based on a surface embossed with ‘micro-grooves’.
They showed that by coating opposing walls of the micro-grooves with different electrical contacts, and then filling the groove with a solution-processable semiconductor, it was possible to create a new type of back contacted solar cell.
Researchers say the 3D design removes many of the manufacturing process steps required by existing photovoltaic (PV) modules and allows new materials to be used that would not usually be possible using regular solar cells.
Power Roll predicts that solar modules produced using this design will weigh only a fraction of an equivalent-power conventional solar module which could benefit less developed and off-grid areas of the world where it is not viable to transport heavy solar panels as well as a wide range of other applications.
Researchers said other benefits of Power Rolls design include removal of expensive transparent conductive oxides, the use of simple and low-cost electrical interconnections and the ability to tune electrical output to match user requirements.
Dr Trevor McArdle, Senior Research Scientist at Power Roll said: ‘Over the last 40 years, the majority of solar cells have been based on a conventional flat structure, in which layers of different materials are deposited one upon another to create the solar cell.
‘However, we have developed a radically different architecture to make solar cells using a surface patterned by micro-grooves that individually are a fraction of the width of a human hair.’
In related news, research from California recently revealed that caffeine can make solar cells more efficient at converting light to electricity.