Glass treated with nanocrystal solar element (via University of Southern California and Dietmar Quistorf)
As the dominance of solar power in today's energy market grows, so does competition within innovation and production of this technology. A recent addition to the solar mix is the advancements being made in liquid nanocrystals solar cells. These nanocrystal cells have their main advantages over their single crystal wafer counterparts in their cost and size. However, the low efficiency of nanocrystal solar cells has been holding back their expansion. Now, scientists from the University of Southern California have found a way to improve the efficiency of liquid nanocrystal solar cells to make them more competitive and solar energy more prominent.
The liquid nanocrystals used in the production of these PV cells are about 4 nanometers across. These cells must be stabilized and kept apart from one another. To do this, scientists used organic ligands that attached to the nanocrystals. Unfortunately, these organic ligands also acted as insulators that impeded conductivity between the crystals. To over come this, scientists at USC have engineered synthetic ligands that perform the same function as the organic ones but also improve the conductivity between the crystals and thus improve the efficiency and effectiveness of liquid nanocrystal solar cells.
This type of solar panel is cheaper to make than the traditional single-crystal silicon wafer partly due to their small size. These liquid crystals can exist as paint or ink that will not melt. Liquid nanocrystals can be applied to plastic surfaces, which can be shaped to fit in more places than traditional glass surfaces. Using liquid nanocrystals, solar panels can be made to be extremely thin and flexible. However, more research is needed to find more suitable materials to make these crystals. Currently, cadmium selenide is used in their manufacture but this chemical is commercially restricted due to its high toxicity. The commercialization of this technology is still years away but is a leader in the next generation solar cells.