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Surface Texturing Improves Performance of Solar Cells

August 28, 2007

Electrical engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a unique method process that should improve the collective efficiency of existing solar cells. The process is described in the August 20, 2007 issue of Applied Physics Letters, a weekly journal featuring reports on significant new findings in applied physics.

Electrical Engineering Associate Professor Meng Tao and Assistant Professor Weidong Zhou developed the process with the assistance of graduate students Hongjun Yang and Li Chen. Their discovery involves the solution deposition of a monolayer of microscale silica spheres partially immersed in a spin-on-glass film, resulting in a surface texturing.

There are several advantages to this development. One is the increased transmittance of light, both in the amount and in the absorbed wavelengths. The partial immersion of the spheres forms domes that gather light from a wider angle of incidence – up to 30 degrees. This omni-directional aspect improves the performance of fixed-orientation solar panels. Also, there is less spectral dependency, allowing the utilization of wavelengths in the ultraviolet and infrared in addition to the visual spectrum.

Another advantage is that the process can be applied to different types of solar cells as an add-on coating. The film is substrate-material independent, increasing its ability to be applied to a wide variety of cell materials.

Finally, since the film is solution-based, there are no etching or vacuum processes, so less power is consumed during production, reducing costs.

Drs. Tao and Zhou have applied for a patent on their process and hope to see commercial applications soon. Their discoveries were tested in small scale in the laboratory, but will require adaptation to a large-scale production and application.