A research team at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, USA, has created a new 3D solar cell that traps photons more efficiently than any photovoltaic device currently in operation. Thanks to microscopic tower structures – 100 microns high, 40 microns by 40 microns square, 10 microns apart, and made of millions of vertically-aligned carbon nanotubes – the cell reflects back far fewer photons than the conventional systems, thus greatly increasing its efficiency at any angle from the source of light.
Future optimization of the cell is planned, along with testing of its operation in space as part of satellites power-producing systems. Back on Earth, this new cost-effective technology may soon give the use of solar energy a more realistic outlook.
Unique three-dimensional solar cells that capture nearly all of the light that strikes them could boost the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) systems while reducing their size, weight and mechanical complexity.