"Broadband nanoplasmonic" technology increases c-Si thin film efficiency

The cells use silicon-based thin film technology, and involves embedded gold and silver nanoparticles to increase the light trapping quality of the thin silicon layer. The project, between Swinburne University and Suntech Power Holdings, hopes to create a more efficient semiconductor material that can be used in BIPV applications.

"Light trapping technology is of paramount importance to increase the performance of thin film solar cells and make them competitive with silicon cells," said Min Gu from Swinburne University. "One of the main potential applications of the technology will be to cover conventional glass, enabling buildings and skyscrapers to be powered entirely by sunlight."

The university and Suntech have been working on the technology for the past 12 months and claim the broadband nanoplasmonic effect exhibited is a true breakthrough. In a statement releasing the result, Gu said that there is "considerable scope" for further efficiency gains.

"We are on a rapid upwards trajectory with our research and development. With our current rate of progress we expect to achieve ten per cent efficiency by mid 2012," Gu said. "We are on target to develop solar cells that are twice as efficient and run at half the cost of those currently available."

The team claim that their approach to nanoparticle integration is inexpensive and can be easily scaled up in production. Suntech c-Si solar cells have been used in the research.

The collaborative project has received AUD12 million (US$12.8 million) in funding, from the Victorian State Government, Suntech and Swinburne University.