Feeds

Princeton solar researchers take leaf from plants’ book

Rough surfaces better at capturing sunlight

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Boost IT visibility and business value

More from The Register

next story
Just TWO climate committee MPs contradict IPCC: The two with SCIENCE degrees
'Greenhouse effect is real, but as for the rest of it ...'
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
Brit amateur payload set to complete full circle around PLANET EARTH
Ultralight solar radio tracker in glorious 25,000km almost-space odyssey
Boffins spot weirder quantum capers as neutrons take the high road, spin takes the low
Cheshire cat effect see neutrons and their properties walk different paths
NASA Mars rover FINALLY equals 1973 Soviet benchmark
Yet to surpass ancient Greek one, however
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Why and how to choose the right cloud vendor
The benefits of cloud-based storage in your processes. Eliminate onsite, disk-based backup and archiving in favor of cloud-based data protection.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Maximize storage efficiency across the enterprise
The HP StoreOnce backup solution offers highly flexible, centrally managed, and highly efficient data protection for any enterprise.