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Researchers develop green antenna to boost solar cell performance

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Staff writer ▼ | August 24, 2015
Researchers at the University of Connecticut in the U.S. have developed a green antenna that has the potential to double efficiencies of certain kinds of solar cells and make them more affordable.
Solar cell
Green energy   Researchers at the University of Connecticut
According to the researchers, the existing silicon solar cells available in the market are not very efficient in the blue part of the light spectrum.

Led by Challa V. Kumar, the team has developed an antenna having the ability to collect those unused blue photons, which is then converted into lower energy photons that the silicon can turn into current.

Challa V. Kumar said: "Most of the light from the sun is emitted over a very broad window of wavelengths. If you want to use solar energy to produce electric current, you want to harvest as much of that spectrum as possible."

Commercial solar cells have an efficiency rate of 11% to 15%. While the high-end cells can deliver 25% efficiency, those are expensive for most people, the researcher claimed.

Lab prototypes of solar cells can promise even higher efficiencies, but are not ready for commercial production.

The research team had used organic dyes to enable conversion of the unused portion of the light spectrum in to wavelengths that can be used by solar cells. The method, besides being inexpensive, can lead to the emission of more silicon friendly photons.

"Many groups around the world are working hard to make this kind of antenna, and ours is the first of its kind in the whole world," Kumar added.

These artificial green antennas are made of biological and non-toxic materials that are edible.

Kumar said: "Not that you would want to eat your solar cells, but they should be compostable so they won't accumulate in the environment."

The research team is coordinating with a Connecticut-based firm to find out how the antennas can be made to function with commercial solar cells.