Nanotubes May Revolutionize Solar Cells

The power output from solar cells may increase from a breakthrough in the use of carbon nanotubes.

Published: 31-Jan-2002

CAMBRIDGE, England -- The power output from solar cells may increase from a breakthrough in the use of carbon nanotubes.

The 'super microscopic' material is 100 times stronger than steel and only one-fifth the weight, and is a superconductor. The field of nanotechnology is an emerging one that combines chemistry and engineering to develop methods of building at the level of atoms, and scientists are exploring ways to blend nanotubes with plastics and ceramics to produce new composites with unprecedented strength-to-weight ratios and high conductivity.

Researchers from Britain's Cambridge University engineering department have developed photovoltaic devices that, when doped with single-wall carbon nanotubes (SWNT), perform better than undoped devices. Nanotube diodes were made by depositing organic films containing SWNT on glass substrates coated with indium-tin oxide (ITO). Aluminium electrodes were then thermally evaporated under a vacuum to form a composite sandwich. The interaction of the carbon nanotubes with the polymer poly-3-octylthiophene (P3OT) allows excitons generated by light in the polymer to dissociate into their separate charges and travel more easily.

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