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Residential Electricity Could Become More Efficient with New Solar Cell

It turns out movies aren’t the only thing transitioning from two dimensions to three.

A new three-dimensional solar cell developed by scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory can boost photovoltaic (PV) light-to-energy efficiency by 80 percent and could revolutionize the solar power industry.

While a conventional 2D solar cell converts about 1.8 percent of the light that strikes it into energy, Oak Ridge’s new 3D solar cell has a demonstrated light-to-energy conversion of 3.2 percent.

When sunlight strikes a typical solar panel, some of the energy that’s created by 2D PV cells gets trapped by natural flaws in the materials that make up the layers of the cells, resulting in lost electricity output. Oak Ridge’s new PV cell addresses some of these issues. The materials and three-dimensional structure of the cell improves its ability to convert energy from sunlight into electrons and then conduct those electrons through the cell to where they can be collected and used as electricity.

But the advances don’t stop there. Oak Ridge scientists are also working on a follow-up to 3D PV cells that takes place in its own unique environment: a Petri dish. The lab is working on a hybrid solar cell that uses the natural light-harvesting abilities of photosynthetic bacteria to produce electricity.


“3D Solar Cell Boosts Efficiency By 80 Percent,” Energy Matters, May 2, 2011.

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