Ordered carbon-nanotube design may increase conductivity of solar cells by 100 million times

Ordered carbon-nanotube design may increase conductivity of solar cells by 100 million times

140289_swnt-network-cartoon-db_webb

Structured single-wall carbon nanotube-based networks optimized for higher-conductivity and lower-cost solar cells (credit: Umeå University)

Controlled placement of carbon nanotubes in nanostructures could result in a huge boost in electronic performance in photovoltaic solar cells, researchers at Umeå University in Sweden have discovered.

KurzweilAI has reported on a number of recent research projects using carbon nanotubes as a replacement for silicon to improve the performance of solar cells. However, according to Umeå University researchers, the projects have found that the nanotubes are difficult to form into well-ordered networks; they tend to be randomly arranged.

In the new study, published in Advanced Materials, the researchers were able to engineer the nanotubes into complex network architectures with controlled nanoscale dimensions inside a polymer matrix. That structure allows for better conductivity (lower loss of power) and reduction of the number of high-cost nanotubes needed.

Carbon nanotube structures in solar-cell film. Left: traditionally mixed composite film made of random single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNTs). Right: nano-engineered SWNT network. Dotted lines represent semiconducting nanotubes and thicker continuous lines represent metallic nanotubes. (Credit: David R. Barbero et al./Advanced Materials)

“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” says David Barbero, project leader and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.

“This innovation has direct implications for the next generation of carbon-based solar cells, which use carbon nanotubes and other carbon materials (graphene, semi-conducting polymers, etc.),” Barbero told KurzweilAI. “That’s because the new nano-engineered networks show much increased charge transport compared to commonly used networks today. These new nano-networks could also in principle be advantageously used in any nanocomposite material where efficient charge transport is required, and where low amounts of nanotubes are necessary.

“This new architecture enables a higher degree of interconnection between nanotubes and more robust charge transport pathways in the device,” he explained. “This is expected to increase device efficiency, but also to reduce materials costs because at least 100 times less nanotubes are necessary to form efficient charge transport networks.”

Barbero could not predict when this new technology might go into production, but hinted that “this field is moving fast and things can happen quickly, so stay tuned.”

In a previous study (Applied Physics Letters, Volume 103, Issue 2, 021116 (2013)) the Barbero’s team demonstrated that the nanotubes can also be formed into thin, flexible, transparent electrodes, allowing for high-performance flexible solar cells.

We demonstrate a simple and controllable method to form periodic arrays of highly conductive nano-engineered single wall carbon nanotube networks from solution. These networks increase the conductivity of a polymer composite by as much as eight orders of magnitude compared to a traditional random network. These nano-engineered networks are demonstrated in both polystyrene and polythiophene polymers.

Source

Related posts

This new battery can fully charge your smartphone in 30 seconds

This new battery can fully charge your smartphone in 30 seconds

Israel-based company, StoreDot, has developed a battery that can charge a smartphone in just 30 seconds, and could be scaled up to charge an electric car within minutes   A new battery developed by researchers at StoreDot, a technology company based in Tel Aviv, is able to store a...

Ohio college is building a drone arena for its students

Ohio college is building a drone arena for its students

It only makes sense that schools teach the next generation how to design and fly unmanned aircraft. However, you can't just set a legion of drones loose on campus -- not so long as FAA regulations prevent it, anyway. Ohio's Sinclair Community College has come up with a clever workaround for this...

Vehicles will become more connected and more automated, and we will manage our journeys through our smartphones.

Vehicles will become more connected and more automated, and we will manage our journeys through our smartphones.

The future of transport looks bright following two recent announcements. First, mayor Boris Johnson unveiled a sleek new design for London Underground trains, which will be faster, cooler, driverless and wifi-enabled... in 2025. Meanwhile, in California, Elon Musk – inheritor of Steve Jobs’...

Nokia’s first device after Microsoft is an iPad mini clone that runs Android

Nokia's first device after Microsoft is an iPad mini clone that runs Android

Nokia is back in the devices business just under seven months after selling its devices and services unit to Microsoft for $7.2 billion. Nokia is unveiling its N1 Android tablet today, days after revealing its plans to license its brand name and teasing a black box on Twitter. Just like...

Smartphone encryption could lead to death of a child, government claims

Smartphone encryption could lead to death of a child, government claims

The U.S. government is fighting back against new encryption technologies on smartphones made by Apple and those using Google's latest version of Android. With a strongly worded argument, an official at the U.S. Department of Justice plainly stated that without access to a suspect's phone, a...

$24,000 Transform Robot goes from car to humanoid

$24,000 Transform Robot goes from car to humanoid

We’ve seen transforming robots before, and I’m not talking about anything related to Hasbro. Researchers from MIT are among many engineers and tinkerers trying to design robots that perform different functions by changing their shape or appearance. Japan-based Brave Robotics has designed a...

Leave a comment