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Harvard`s Black Silicon: 100 to 500 Times More Powerful Than Old Solar Cells


I like the way solar energy news appear: one after another, better and even better. During the time, I have presented only good solar energy news. This time, we have some piece of news that kicks all the other ones on cheapness and efficiency.

Kept in secret until yesterday, a newly appeared company, named SiOnyx, unveils an invention of some Harvard researchers, that is going to revolutionize the whole industry. Harvard has been studying their “black silicon” for almost ten years, but nothing has come out of their lab, due to internal policies regarding the output of their discoveries to commercial companies.Now, SiOnyx has the exclusive rights to commercialize the invention.

So, what is that “black silicon” and where did they get it from?

You may imagine black silicon as being a black piece of silicon, because it is. It practically absorbs all the light coming onto it, including infrared. Ten years ago, by mistake, scientists focused a powerful and short (in lengths of femtoseconds) laser beam to a silicon wafer and got it black. Then, they analyzed the silicon wafer with the microscope and they found nanometric-scale spikes, like in the picture above. To the whole experiment they added sulphur hexafluoride.

The effects of this “fried” silicon were a sky rocketing light sensitivity, somewhere between 100 and 500 times more sensitive than the ordinary ones. It even detects infrared light, by an effect still not understood by scientists.

Of course, the discovery scared everybody and nothing has been unveiled until today. Now SiOnyx is going to manufacture and license hardware upgrades for the silicon processing factories, that they say will implement the new technology very cheaply and easily, adding it to the old one without many modifications to their technological process.

The black silicon will be used in manufacturing high efficiency solar panels with 1600W per square meter, high sensitivity imaging sensors, and others. I don’t know why, but I have a feeling that the US army is not foreign to this technology since ten years ago…

A press release from SiOnyx will come today and possibly offer more details of their future products.

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  1. 1600W/m2 is way above the available energy leave currently hitting the earth. If it was even half that it would be fantastic. However BS claims deserve to be ignored as no reputable company would make such claims. Oh well it is another blind ally.

  2. SiOnyx, the discoverer ok black silicon is working on CMOS image sensors.
    The sensitivity of these sensors is supposed to be 6 stops better than existing silicon sensors.
    On sionyx.com first page, there is a photo of a Nikon mount SLR.
    Does this mean that Nikon will be the first SLR manufacturer to provide black silicon CMOS sensors?
    If that is true, this will be the death knell for Canon unless…

  3. Hello best americans, all Your good technology is never going to comme public because Your president Yah even Obama is becomming elected after heavy sponcering of the oil capitalists and the banks that run heavy loans to the oil company’s and there resurge !
    Only when match individuals bringing these hi tech plans open on the internet and “free of charge” the poor poeples like us can start building and consurve the globe !
    Rich want get richer, and special the Americans !
    The wars in Irac etc etc is gidet by the OILBARONS and nothing else who mind the woman and shildren there before ??? the oil crysis !!!???

  4. Exactly, they say 1600 watts, yet under absolutely ideal conditions the earth only gets 1300 to 1400 watts of sun energy per square meter, so their claim is for a panel that would get better than 100% efficiency.

    However, I could see doubling the current efficiency of the solar panels resulting in something like 400 or 500 watts per panel at peak light, which would be great, particularly if the panels cost the same.

  5. We will never see this. Just like all the rest of the better and lower priced equipment.I would like to see how many of these companies pay dividends to the investor.
    It is the old saying “All hat and no cattle”.

  6. Hate to do this, but I call bullshiat on the 1600w/m^2 number. The usual estimate for solar flux outside of earths atmosphere is about 1300-1400 W/m^2. Add in a nice thick absorptive layer of atmosphere, and at the surface we’re talking significantly less. More efficiency is wonderful, but anytime it tops 100% one has to question where the numbers are coming from.

    On the other hand, the ability to absorb IR brings up the possibility of using it on the sides of city buildings to suck up latent heat.

  7. These much improved solar panels can make the American South West the greatest “energy patch” ever.If, and that is a big “IF” Obama succeeds in Solar efforts in the American South West, and relieves the costs, direct, implied and blackmailed, of imported oil, we will no longer pay for the oil or the wars, in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, or any where else the subversive bastards want our “Mercenaries for oil favors” army. Additionally, we will set out on a new technological course on a virgin territory, developing solar installations, adaptations, new fuels, cars, and lifestyles, leaving the “burn something 1930’s lifestyle” we now cherish, and develop a sustainable lifestyle for Americans. Wind power can work in the same direction. The thing the American mindset cannot get is that these energy forms are perpetual! not just sustainable, and the magic phrase “renewable” but perpetual in nature! Like an oil well that never goes dry, once a solar or wind installation is complete, for maintenance costs only, it keeps producing forever! If Obama can get the US. hooked on this mindset, we will be ushered into the 21 century and a new technology age with great abundance – We just have to unhook from the OPEC and Saudi status quo, adapt to wind, solar, wave, geothermal and tidal power and we are there! It is not a matter of economics alone, it is a matter of leverage on society! Very soon, developments in these areas will make “Star-Wars” look like children’s games.

  8. North America is great at discovering new inventions or coming out with practical application of pure science research. Where they seem to fall behind is creating wealth for their own country. Think of where almost all lithium batteries are made, computers, and basically all high tech equipment. Outside the US. I bought 25 solar panels for 3 large catamarans last year. The best I could find was all Japanese or German made. Not one in the USA. Will black silicone go the same way. Can Harvard and the US Gov not see the light (no pun intended). If you give away all your best ideas to China or Japan, what do you have left as a manufacturing infrastructure. One person or one institution lives off the patent royalties rather than many companies exporting the finished product all over the world and creating wealth in the US. The US gov should do whatever it can to keep this technology in America. At 1600w per sq meter and with what seems to be easy manufacturing methods, every house in America could be self sufficient in power. I could cover my boat in solar panels and use only electric engines (on sunny days of course). Finally, solar power is able to make a real difference on cars.
    Now, if the gov could be smart enough to encourage mass manufacturing of high efficiency batteries (Li/ Ion) we could have a real renaissance in the car industry.

    Robert Simpson, Canadian living in Thailand

  9. This SEM photo looks just like a Kr-holographic diffraction grating. So, why not just grow the Si crystals that big? OR, use a grating master as a printing surface or embosser?


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