Researchers from the University of Buffalo (UB) have developed a new, nanomaterials-based technology that they believe has the potential to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells up to 45%.
Specifically, the researchers have shown that embedding charged quantum dots into solar cells can improve electrical output by enabling the cells to harvest infrared light, and by increasing the lifetime of photoelectrons. The technology can be applied to many different photovoltaic structures.
The research team included Vladimir Mitin, Andrei Sergeev and Nizami Vagidov, faculty members in UB's electrical engineering department; Kitt Reinhardt of the Air Force Office of Scientific Research; and John Little and advanced nanofabrication expert Kimberly Sablon of the U.S. Army Research Laboratory.
The UB researchers and their colleagues have successfully used embedded quantum dots to harvest infrared light and taken the technology a step further – employing selective doping so that quantum dots within the solar cell have a significant built-in charge, the university says.
This built-in charge is beneficial because it repels electrons, forcing them to travel around the quantum dots. Otherwise, the quantum dots create a channel of recombination for electrons, in essence ‘capturing’ moving electrons and preventing them from contributing to electric current.
Through UB's Office of Science, Technology Transfer and Economic Outreach, the researchers have filed provisional patent applications to protect their technology.