Grazing In The Nanograss Is A Gas: New "Nanopillars" To Improve Solar Cells

Sometimes when science takes a page from nature, great ideas abound.  Such is the case with the new "nanograss" design, which improves the energy-gathering capabilities of solar panels.

According to neomatica.com, researchers used the concept of blades of grass to expound on collecting available solar power.  When blades of grass grow, their surface area is multiplied by their height, and their vertical growing pattern makes it easy to have a large number of blades in a small area.  This makes for an accrued larger surface area that can absorb (and, in turn, convert) more sunlight when the design is applied to solar panels.

The new "nanograss" is created from nano-crystalline material with photovoltaic capacity.  On the atomic scale, at billionths of a meter tall, the cell stacks or "nanopillars" appear similar to a neatly-trimmed lawn of grass.  Each blade is a column of semiconductor p-n junctions which react with 32% more efficiency than traditional thin-film photovoltaic cells.

Professor Briseno of UMass Amherst, the lead author of the study, claims, “This work is a major advancement in the field of organic solar cells because we have developed what the field considers the ‘Holy Grail’ architecture for harvesting light and converting it to electricity.”

The biggest challenge of the project was to enable the molecules to stack vertically so that their electrons could flow as needed, bearing charge in only one direction. The substrate grapheme was found to be the solution that allowed the molecules to stack properly, bringing the idea to actualization. The results may soon be used in batteries and transistors as well as solar cells.

Of course, nano-pranks were quick to follow on the nano-lawn.
(Image courtesy umass.edu.)



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