Iowa State Research Improves Solar Cells

A polymer solar cell that captures more light and produces more power? That’s the news from Ames, Iowa, where researchers at Iowa State University and U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Lab have developed a process for fabricating more efficient polymer solar cells.

This process is based on the discovery of a textured substrate pattern that allows for the deposit of a uniformly thin light-absorbing layer. This is a big deal because it improves light absorption in solar cells by as much as 20%, according to Sumit Chaudhary, an Iowa State assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Ames Laboratory.

Ames Solar Cell Research

image via Iowa State University

This textured substrate apparently possesses microscopic little ridges less than a millionth of a meter high, which allows the light-absorbing polymer, when sprayed on, to capture more light, including light that’s reflected from one tiny little ridge to another. Early tests have indicated not only a 20% improvement over traditional flat polymer solar cells, but 100% more capture of that hard-to-harvest light near the red/infrared end of the light spectrum.

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Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.