Nanotube composites promise solar cell efficiency boost
The result is claimed to provide a huge boost in electronic performance which will translate into increased efficiency for the next generation of solar cells.
CNTs are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders made of carbon atoms that have high tensile strength and exceptional electron mobility.
There is an increasing trend of using carbon based nanostructured materials as components in solar cells. Due to their properties, carbon nanotubes are expected to enhance the performance of current solar cells through efficient charge transport inside the device. To achieve the highest performance for electronic applications, the carbon nanotubes need to be assembled into a well-ordered network of interconnecting nanotubes. So far conventional methods used today are far from optimal which results in low device performance.
In the new study, a team of physicists and chemists at Umeå University joined forces to produce nano-engineered carbon nanotubes networks with novel properties by engineering CNTs into complex network architectures for the first time. The new strutures feature controlled nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.
“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” explained Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umeå University.
The high degree of control of the method enables production of highly efficient nanotube networks with a small amount of nanotubes compared to other conventional methods, thereby strongly reducing materials costs.
In a previous study (Applied Physics Letters, Volume 103, Issue 2, 021116 (2013)) the research team of David R. Barbero already demonstrated that nano-engineered networks can be produced onto thin and flexible transparent electrodes that can be used in flexible solar cells. The new results are expected to accelerate the development of next generation of flexible carbon based solar cells, which are both more efficient and less expensive to produce.
Reference: Nano-engineering of SWNT networks for enhanced charge transport at ultralow nanotube loading. D. R. Barbero, N. Boulanger, M. Ramstedt, Department of Chemistry, Umeå University, J. Yu, Department of Physics, Umeå University . Advanced Materials. DOI: 10.1002/adma.201305718.
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