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Researchers Developing More Efficient Solar Cells From Microscopic “Trees”


You usually envisage solar cells as being tubular or horizontal, but this time prepare yourself for a tree-like form. It’s just like those November trees covered in frost, only these are grown from silver. Pretty picture, right? It’s not only pretty, but useful too: chemists at the University of California, Davis think that these microscopic structures could help improve solar cells.

They’re not compared to trees for nothing: Professor Frank Osterloh, a principal investigator on the project, took his inspiration from actual trees growing in nature and sought to provide the same large surface area for the collection of the sunlight. His project received a $100,000 grant from the Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement.

“We expect these structures will allow us to make better, more efficient solar cells,” said Professor Frank Osterloh.

The structures are actually called “fractal trees,” meaning silver branches as big as the 50th part of a human hair have branches onto themselves, which in return ramify into smaller branches and so on.

The “trees” would be covered with polymers, so when the light reaches them, it results in short-lived electrons and positively-charged holes. The electric field appears when these are immersed in the branches and the electrons move to the counter-electrode. I told you these “trees” were useful!…

[via UC-Davis]

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