With all the talk about nanomaterials making up more efficient solar cells, most of the focus has been on graphene and its unique properties. It’s easy to forget that other elements could possibly be manufactured similarly.
It stands to reason that if you can make one element into a monolayer, then you should be able to make other monolayer elements. Researchers have found that graphene, a one-atom-thick film of carbon atoms, has some very unique properties when compared to other forms of carbon. Research in the properties of graphene has led to varied uses, including water purification, desalination, battery electrodes, and solar cells, to name a few.
I like how one Gajits.com writer expressed graphene’s many uses: “Every once in a while, a material comes along that is so useful researchers have to dig for years to uncover all of its uses. Graphene is one of those materials.” Graphene was originally isolated in 2004 by researchers at the University of Manchester, and research is indeed ongoing. The latest development actually turned out to be way easier than they had expected.
By sandwiching monolayers of transition metal dichalcogenides [TMDC] between two layers of graphene, researchers at Manchester and National University of Singapore were able to create extremely sensitive and efficient photovoltaic cells. TMDC is extremely photoreactive, but without a way to conduct the energy generated, it would be useless, thus the benefits of using highly conductive, yet transparent, graphene layers.
The press release doesn’t mention any specifics, but does mention that the photovoltaic device is “very efficient.” We’re looking forward to seeing how this develops.