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Surface Texturing from Solution for Omni-Directional Solar Cells

August 28, 2007

Electrical engineering researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington have developed a unique method process that should reduce the cost of solar electricity by improving light collection in current and future 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 spherical surface texturing.

There are several advantages to this development. One is the increased transmittance of light in a broad spectral range. The partial immersion of the spheres forms domes that gather light effectively from a wider angle of incidence – up to 60 degrees in theory. This omni-directional aspect improves the performance of fixed-orientation solar panels, such as those installed on rooftops and windows.

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

Finally, since the coating is solution-prepared, there are no etching or vacuum processes, so less capital cost and fabrication cost are required.

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.