Feeds

Princeton solar researchers take leaf from plants’ book

Rough surfaces better at capturing sunlight

Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile

Solar power researchers at Princeton University have discovered that by mimicking the surface of leaves, they can create solar cells that are better at capturing sunlight for a 47 percent efficiency boost.

In the kind of discovery that’s obvious after the fact, the researchers have “roughed up” the surface of their cells, in imitation of the way that leaves use microscopic irregularities in their surfaces to maximize their harvesting of the sun.

As described in Photonics, leaves' surface structures are “designed to bend and control sunlight for maximum production of energy and nutrients.”

The design tries to overcome the randomness of incident light – anything that doesn’t arrive at the correct angle is going to be reflected. By adding microscopic folds to the surface of their cells, the researchers say they can create a kind of waveguide that helps capture more light, by reducing the amount that’s reflected from the cell.

“Everything hinges on the fact that you can reproduce the wrinkles and folds,” led by professor of chemical and biological engineering Lynn Loo told Photonics. “By controlling the stresses, we can introduce more or fewer wrinkles and folds” – allowing the scientists to design the surface for maximum capture.

The researchers say it’s particularly important in the world of plastic panels, where low efficiency and relatively high cost give the older silicon technology its huge edge in the market.

As well as making a cell more efficient, the researchers found that efficiency doesn’t fall in a hole when the cell is bent. They claim that a standard plastic cell can lose 70 percent of its output when bent – not surprisingly, since bending the cell reduces the surface area that presents the right angle to the incoming light.

By adding the “wrinkles” to a plastic cell, the Princeton group found that it could retain its efficiency when bent. They claim as much as 47 percent better efficiency from their device. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
Archaeologists and robots on hunt for more Antikythera pieces
How much of the world's oldest computer can they find?
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Beginner's guide to SSL certificates
De-mystify the technology involved and give you the information you need to make the best decision when considering your online security options.