New solar cell nanotech research – the whole is greater than the sum of the parts

According to, researchers who are combining two different types of solar cell materials are getting efficiciencies far better than either one alone. In fact, while the researchers hoped that the efficiency would be as good as the sum of the two different materials, what they got were efficiencies as much as 3 times greater than the sum of the efficiencies.
The researchers, who are led by University of California/Santa Cruz professor Jin Zhang, combined two methods used to engineer solar cells – doping thin films of metal oxide with nanoparticles and quantum dots, which inject electrons into a metal oxide film.
Professor Zhang thinks that it may be easier for the charge to “hop around” in the nanocomposite material due to the two different techniques used to create the cell. Next the group is going to optimize the parameters used to create their cells. “What we’re doing is essentially ‘band-gap engineering.’ We’re manipulating the energy levels of the nanocomposite material so the electrons can work more efficiently for electricity generation,” Professor Zhang said. “If our model is correct, we’re making a good case for this kind of strategy.”

The research project is being funded by the US Dept of Energy, the National Science Foundation of China, and the University of California Institute for Mexico and the United States (UC-MEXUS).

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