Quantum physics for new generation of solar cells

salford university
The University of Salford is to conduct theoretical work on third generation solar cells, which will use new semi-conductor nanostructures in order to significantly increase the electricity produced by sunlight.

Professor Stanko Tomić and his team from the University of Salford’s School of Computing, Science & Engineering will be designing the semi-conductor quantum dots, which are designed to substantially reduce the energy losses present in conventional silicon solar cells.

The conversion of extra energy, which would otherwise be lost in the form of panel heat, into electricity is key to the project’s aim of increasing the conversion factor of light to electricity from 10-20 percent to over 30 percent.

Professor Tomić and his team will use methods of computational physics, which combine the laws of quantum mechanics and advanced numerical algorithms, together with supercomputer power, to describe the structure of the materials, in order to design new solar cell devices.

During the research project, Professor Tomić will design the quantum dots that will be fabricated at the University of Manchester and the University of Tokyo, using, among other materials, cadmium selenide, indium arsenide, and gallium arsenide.

The research is being funding, among others, by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council UK and the Royal Society, London.

Prof Tomić said: “Governments around the world are keen to pursue this technology, but in the UK we have one of the few teams able to create working cells.  While the high efficiency solar cells possibly represent the energy source of the second half of the century, the work we’re doing now is of utmost importance as we seek to limit carbon emissions.”