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Thinner Film Silicon Solar Cells

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

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Technology Marketing SummaryBerkeley Lab scientists have designed a new approach to create thin film silicon solar cells with a potential increase in photon energy conversion of up to 20%, a significant improvement over conventional thin film photovoltaic technologies. By using thinner photon energy absorber layers requiring less silicon than conventional photovoltaic devices of similar photon absorptive power, the technology also promises to lower solar cell material costs. DescriptionThe Berkeley Lab solar cell technology arose from the discovery that wave function engineering can be used to enhance silicon’s ability to absorb light and emit electrical energy. Wave function engineering is a technique that modifies the molecular composition and structure of a material to optimize its photo absorption coefficient and, thus, the frequency at which it can absorb energy intensive photons.
As a result, this invention minimizes the number of photons lost to waste heat, making it possible to create thin film silicon solar cells that absorb nearly twice the amount of light of conventional thin film photovoltaics. Current devices typically use band gap engineering to enhance electron hole carrier mobilities and energy output by modifying the composition of solar cell materials such as semiconductor alloys.
  • Improves silicon solar cell’s photon energy conversion by up to 20%
  • Absorbs nearly twice the photon energy of conventional solar cells
  • Minimizes manufacturing and consumer costs
Applications and Industries
  • Fabricating thin film silicon solar cells
  • Enhancing efficiencies of existing thin film solar cells
More InformationPUBLICATION:
Malone, B.D., J.D. Sau, and M.L. Cohen, “Ab initio study of the optical properties of Si-XII,” Physical Review B 78, 161202 (2008).
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