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GaAs cell scores 14% conversion efficiency with zinc oxide

Posted: 23 Apr 2014  Print Version  Bookmark and Share

Keywords:solar cell  conversion efficiency  gallium arsenide 

University of Arkansas researchers have marked a milestone in solar cell development, scoring a high of 14 per cent conversion efficiency with zinc oxide-coated solar cell the size of a cufflink.

The solar cell is made of gallium arsenide and is 9mm2 small. Its surface was modified through a chemical synthesis of thin films, nanostructures and nanoparticles. The coating works to suppress the sun's reflection so the cell could absorb more light. But even without the surface coating, the researchers were able to achieve 9 per cent efficiency by manipulating the host material.

A small array of these cells—as few as nine to 12—generate enough energy for small light-emitting diodes and other devices. Scaling up surface modification, the cells can be packaged in large arrays of panels to power large devices such as homes, satellites, or even spacecraft.

Led by Electrical Engineering Professor Omar Manasreh, the research team published its findings in Applied Physics Letters and the April 2014 issue of Solar Energy Materials and Solar Cells.

"We want to increase the efficiency of small cells," said Yahia Makableh, doctoral student in electrical engineering. "With this specific material, the theoretical maximum is 33 per cent efficiency, so we have some work to do. But we're making progress. The beauty of zinc oxide is that it's cheap, non-toxic and easy to synthesise."

Makableh_solar cell

Yahia Makableh demonstrates how a small array of 9 millimeter, gallium-arsenide solar cells can provide energy for small devices.

Makableh said the surface modification could also be applied to other solar cells, including those made of indium-arsenide and gallium-arsenide quantum dots. Solar cells made of these materials may be able to achieve 63-per cent conversion efficiency, which would make them ideal for future development of solar cells.

Makableh used equipment and instrumentation in the College of Engineering's Optoelectronics Research Lab, which is directed by Manasreh. Researchers in the lab grow and functionalise semiconductors, nanostructured anti-reflection coatings, self-cleaning surfaces and metallic nanoparticles to be used in solar cells. Their ultimate goal is to fabricate and test photovoltaic devices with greater solar-energy conversion efficiency.





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