… with “light pipes.” If this research bears fruit it will be a major solar breakthrough — drastically increased efficiency coupled with lower cost manufacturing. A win-win.
From the link:
Researchers in North Carolina have developed a way to more than double the performance of organic solar cells by adding a layer of upright optical fibers that act as sunlight traps.
David Carroll, a professor of physics at Wake Forest University, led the development of a prototype solar cell incorporating the fibers. He is the chief scientist at a spinoff company called FiberCell that is developing a reel-to-reel manufacturing process to produce the cells. “We’re on the cusp of having working demonstrators that would convince someone to go into production with this,” said Carroll.
The best organic solar cells today are nearly 8 percent efficient, although efforts are ongoing to develop organic chemistries that would push the efficiency of such cells above 10 percent. But Carroll says improved chemistries alone won’t be enough to catch up to the performance of silicon cells. “The answer doesn’t lie in chemistry–it lies in the architecture of the cell itself,” he says. Carroll adds that the dollar-per-watt cost of manufacturing fiber-based organic cells should be about the same cost as for flat organic cells. “But they can be produced in a factory costing one-tenth that of a silicon foundry,” he says. This would make them much cheaper to produce than silicon cells.
Fiber forest: This prototype solar panel is covered with optical fibers. Photons bounce around inside the fibers before being absorbed, and this doubles the panel’s efficiency compared to regular organic cells.
Credit: Wake Forest University