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More Efficient Solar Cells

Silicon nanoparticles enhance performance of solar cells

Placing a film of silicon nanoparticles onto a silicon solar cell can boost power, reduce heat and prolong the cell's life, researchers now report.

To make their improved solar cells, the researchers began by first converting bulk silicon into discrete, nano-sized particles using a patented process they developed. Depending on their size, the nanoparticles will fluoresce in distinct colors.

Nanoparticles of the desired size were then dispersed in isopropyl alcohol and dispensed onto the face of the solar cell. As the alcohol evaporated, a film of closely packed nanoparticles was left firmly fastened to the solar cell.

Solar cells coated with a film of 1 nanometer, blue luminescent particles showed a power enhancement of about 60 percent in the ultraviolet range of the spectrum, but less than 3 percent in the visible range, the researchers report.

The process of coating solar cells with silicon nanoparticles could be easily incorporated into the manufacturing process with little additional cost, Nayfeh said.