Coral shaped nanomaterials could help scientists make more efficient solar cells. A team of chinese researchers, led by Jinhuai Liu at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, changed the structure of tin oxide to serve various purposes in solar cells, batteries, gas sensors and other devices.
The team modified the tin oxide’s structure and morphology by using a novel technology, since current preparation methods make this modification very difficult and expensive.
Tin oxide nanomaterials have been modified to have the form of a coral, because corals have high surface area and long-term stability at nanoscale levels. This fact improved the efficiency of dye sensitized solar cells made of coral-shaped nanomaterials.
Liu’s nanoshapes are made via a “swallowing growth mechanism“. Whereby, nanospheres made using a hydrothermal reaction stick together and aggregate into one parent structure when the reaction time is extended. This process continues, with the parent structure ‘swallowing’ and assimilating nanospheres until a coral-shaped structure with many radial tentacles is formed.
“The unique coral shape is of great significance for developing new-types of DSSCs,” says Liu. “The demonstrated novel process creates new opportunities for designing other functional nanomaterials with specific structures for applications ranging from lithium-ion batteries and sensors to catalysts,” he adds.
Generally, designing materials with nanoparticles on their surfaces enhances the materials properties, either if they’re hydrogen storage materials, solar cells, or batteries. Some can even have the surface equivalent of a football stadium on a very small apparent surface.