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New Semiconductor Discovered at LBL Can Make Full-Spectrum Solar Cells

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Solar cells that harvest the entire light spectrum have been the ultimate dream of any scientist, especially since the solar efficiency has become crucial in the economical development of some producing companies and states that rely on this technology.

A team of LBL (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) researchers have just discovered how a new semiconducting material, gallium arsenide nitride, can “feed” with the entire light spectrum, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet… well… sort of.

Just like previous approaches, this one uses different materials stacked in layer. Each layer is sensitive to certain frequencies. LBL writer Paul Preuss says they used the gallium arsenide nitride alloy but also replaced some of the arsenic atoms with nitrogen, thus creating an intermediate energy band, which enables the new semiconductor to respond to most of the light wavelengths hitting the cell.

The same researchers say that the production costs will not be high, as it had been the case with previous semiconductor alloys used for full-spectrum visibility. The gallium arsenide nitride’s production process resembles much the one of an ordinary semiconductor, hence it can be fabricated using common chemical vapor deposition.

If the LBL researchers have reached the phase in which they optimize their inventions for low costs, that usually means it won’t be long until we see the actual product on the market, since cost is the only factor making the difference between a good but expensive product not reaching the market and a good but cheap one hitting the road of manufacturing.

[via cleantechnica]

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