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Size matters: Smaller particles could make solar panels more efficient
Date:3/25/2011

Studies done by Mark Lusk and colleagues at the Colorado School of Mines could significantly improve the efficiency of solar cells. Their latest work describes how the size of light-absorbing particles--quantum dots--affects the particles' ability to transfer energy to electrons to generate electricity.

The results are published in the April issue of the journal ACS Nano.

The advance provides evidence to support a controversial idea, called multiple-exciton generation (MEG), which theorizes that it is possible for an electron that has absorbed light energy, called an exciton, to transfer that energy to more than one electron, resulting in more electricity from the same amount of absorbed light.

Quantum dots are man-made atoms that confine electrons to a small space. They have atomic-like behavior that results in unusual electronic properties on a nanoscale. These unique properties may be particularly valuable in tailoring the way light interacts with matter.

Experimental verification of the link between MEG and quantum dot size is a hot topic due to a large degree of variation in previously published studies. The ability to generate an electrical current following MEG is now receiving a great deal of attention because this will be a necessary component of any commercial realization of MEG.

For this study, Lusk and collaborators used a National Science Foundation (NSF)-supported high performance computer cluster to quantify the relationship between the rate of MEG and quantum dot size.

They found that each dot has a slice of the solar spectrum for which it is best suited to perform MEG and that smaller dots carry out MEG for their slice more efficiently than larger dots. This implies that solar cells made of quantum dots specifically tuned to the solar spectrum would be much more efficient than solar cells made of material that is not fabricated with quantum dots.

According to Lusk, "We can
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Contact: Lisa Van Pay
lvanpay@nsf.gov
703-292-8796
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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