More efficient space solar cells could mean better imagery satellites and improved solar energy technology.
Scientists at the NanoPower Research Labs at Rochester Institute of Technology, led by director Ryne Raffaelle, are using nanotechnology to explore this possibility through a project funded by an $847,109 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense. The project aims to take current state-of-the-art solar cells used for space power to the next level by developing nanostructured materials and, ultimately, by producing nanostructured cells. The program may extend to three and half years, with total funding reaching $3 million.
"If successful, the results of this program will improve current solar array and satellite technology, and lay the foundation for long-term improvement in our ability to use solar energy," Raffaelle says.
Unique to this project is the ability to exploit the fundamental behavior of nanoscale crystals, also known as quantum dots, which alter the way a solar cell absorbs light and converts it into electricity. According to Raffaelle, the electrical, optical, mechanical and even thermal properties of nanomaterials can be controlled by changing the particle size, making them highly useful in semiconductor device development.
"The use of the quantum confinement offered by nanostructured materials provides us with a new means of breaking out of the normal design constraints associated with ordinary crystalline device growth," says Raffaelle. "The theoretical improvements that this can provide are truly remarkable. It's our job to turn these theories into experimental realities."
There are many more posts on progress in solar panels on my blog. Too many to link back to. Check the archives if you're interested.