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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