News: Big Impact, News, Research

Two-pronged approach to improved solar

Researchers at the Australian National University have developed a unique way to boost the efficiency of silicon solar cells. They have also shown the maximum potential of ultra-thin, extremely lightweight, semi-transparent materials, called transition metal dichalcgenides, to generate electricity using sunlight. These 2D materials have the potential to be incorporated into a wide range of devices and buildings, harvesting sunlight to power themselves.

Australia receives 10,000 times more solar energy from the Sun each year than its total annual energy consumption. However, use of solar energy is still limited due to: less than optimal efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells and the limited sites, such as rooftops and solar farms, currently available from which to harvest solar energy.

Dr Hieu Nguyen’s team at the Australian National University has developed a unique way to boost the efficiency of silicon solar cells by using hydrogen to reduce defects and impurities, and to boost electrical conduction. They use the advanced instruments including the transmission electron microscope at the Microscopy Australia ANU facility.

They are also addressing the second limitation by showing the potential of ultra-thin, extremely lightweight, semi-transparent materials made of the transition metal dichalcogenide to generate electricity using sunlight.

The knowledge and methods developed will help ensure solar energy to have deeper and broader penetration into our lives. They also help improve the efficiency and robustness of low-cost solar energy devices, reduce energy costs, and make solar energy become a reliable, affordable, sustainable and clean energy source for Australia.