Edgy Labs delves into the world of microelectronic semiconductors as we explore the new thin film solar cell technology that may expand possibilities for cheaper, and more efficient, devices.
Over the past half-century, scientists have helped transform computers from hulking machines into sleek tablets and phones. But the question still looms: can we make even tinier and more powerful devices?
The Thin Film Revolution
A study led by University of Chicago researchers, published earlier this month in Nature, describes a surprising way to create semiconductors “just a few atoms thick”.
“The films, vertically controlled at the atomic-level, are exceptionally high-quality over entire wafers,” said Kibum Kang, a postdoctoral associate who was the first author of the study.New thin-film #solarcells create catalysts with surprising efficiency. Click To Tweet
Surprisingly, these thin film solar cells “can be made on top of water or plastics,” can be made to detach in water, and “can be carved or patterned with an ion beam,” reports phys.org. This gives these thin film cells an astounding range of potential application–from computer chips to nanoelectronics.
“We expect this new method to accelerate the discovery of novel materials, as well as enabling large-scale manufacturing,” said Jiwoong Park, a UChicago professor with the Department of Chemistry, the Institute for Molecular Engineering and the James Franck Institute, who led the study.
Potential Applications for Thin Film Solar Cells
One such “novel” application may include integrating these minute solar cells into the electrical infrastructure of CO2 driven automobiles.
Michael Grätzel, a renowned professor of Physical Chemistry at EPFL, recently invented the “dye-sensitized solar cell” (DSSC)— a fundamental component in the first-ever low-cost catalyst system.
Using two Earth-abundant catalyst materials (tin oxide and copper oxide), the new system is reported to convert CO2 to CO with 13.4% efficiency.
These thin-film solar cells could easily be adapted to power this catalyst reaction – all while occupying a minute space within the vehicle itself.