Researchers from the University of Twente in the Netherlands has shown that it may be possible to double the amount of energy production from a solar cell.
These cells are typically flat, but when minuscule silicon pillars are added to the surface, the production of electricity was found to double. This research was published in the scientific journal Advanced Energy Materials.
When creating the semi-conductor, the researchers were able to fit one million of these minuscule pillars per square centimeter. These pillars are what make it possible to convert sunlight to electricity. The semi-conductor unit is comprised of two types of silicone. One is enhanced with boron, and the other, phosphorus. The meeting point between the two silicones, known as the PN junction, is what drives solar cell efficiency, as this point is where the positive and negative charges are separated.
Researchers also examined what size of pillar would yield the best result. With an optimized pillar height of 40 micrometers high and 790 nanometers deep, the researchers were able to produce an efficiency rate of 13 percent, i.e. 13 percent of light absorbed could turn to electricity. In a flat structure, the solar cell efficiency was found to be closer to six percent.
Researchers expect these findings to be utilized in a larger project, where groups are working together to develop a solar-to-fuel device, enabling sunlight to be converted directly into fuel. This research into silicon pillars also means that the surface area that hydrogen can be produced upon has increased. Though the cost of production may be prohibited, these findings could be useful for other applications of technology.