Solar-powered electricity generation is heading towards better days, due to nanotechnology research. Dutch scientists Kylie Catchpole and Albert Polman from the FOM Institute for Atomic and Molecular Physics in Netherlands, showed that by using nano-sized metal particles in solar cells can render their overall efficiency up to 30%.
Their work is taking advantage of a phenomena called “surface plasmon”, a tiny electrical disturbance taking place when the light strikes a piece of metal. The issue that the surface plasmon solves is that of the incoming light escaping back in the source medium. If the piece of metal is a tiny particle, the light can make it vibrate, effectively scattering the light. If, furthermore, the light is at certain resonant colors, the scattering process is particularly strong.
Until now, only the bluish part of light has been more efficiently captured, and the reddish needed more attention. The two scientists proved that by using the surface plasmons, the red efficiency can be increased up to ten fold.
Still, they say the surface plasmons could start being used only three years from now, and could be applied to both classic silicon wafer-based solar cells, and the new thin film type cells. I can hardly wait something comercially available – of course, the offer will be made to solar manufacturers, and we’ll only see the results embedded in their new photovoltaics maybe four years from now.