40 percent efficiency goal of NASA-sponsored research

It was announced yesterday that the Optoelectronics Research Lab at the University of Ankansas will receive a USD$1 million grant to pursue the research. The team behind the research, led by Omar Manasreh, will attempt two approaches to pursue its goals.

The first is to use copper, indium, gallium, selenium (CIGS) variant semiconductor material (CuInSe2 and CuInGaSe2) to grow nanocrystals. The resultant nanocrystals are then made functional and either converted into thin films, or combined with titanium dioxide or zinc oxide nanotubes to create solar cells.

The second approach uses a "molecular beam epitaxy" method to deposit the nanocrystals, to create "quantum dots" – nanosized particles of semiconductor material – of indium arsenide.

The researchers will then test the resultant photovoltaic cells.

In an attempt to enhance the cells’ efficiency, short ligands – molecules that bind to a central atom – to couple metallic nanoparticals to the nanocrystals or quantum dots. Whether a "plasmonic effect" occurs, trapping sunlight, will be investigated by the researchers.

NASA and the University of Arkansas will provide the funding for Manasreh’s research with administrative support coming from the Arkansas State University. Manasreh has previously received a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Air Force.

Cells resultant from the research could be used to power electrical equipment on NASA satellites.

When announcing the funding, Manasreh said that it will allow him to continue his research in the field and that breakthroughs could lead to an industry being developed. "It will create new opportunities for further development in the field of novel photovoltaic materials and devices."