According to a new study, designing solar panels in checkerboard lines increases their ability to absorb light by 125 percent.
Researchers say the breakthrough could lead to the production of thinner, lighter and more flexible solar panels that can power more households and be used in a wider range of products.
The study, led by researchers from the University of York and carried out in collaboration with the NOVA University of Lisbon (CENIMAT-i3N), examined how different surface designs affect the absorption of sunlight in solar cells that together form solar modules.
Scientists found that the checkerboard design improved diffraction, which increased the likelihood that light would be absorbed, which was then used to generate electricity.
The renewable energy sector is constantly looking for new ways to improve the light absorption of solar cells in lightweight materials that can be used in products from roof tiles to boat sails to camping equipment.
The production of solar cells in solar quality is very energy-intensive. Making cells slimmer and changing the surface design would therefore make them cheaper and more environmentally friendly.
Dr. Christian Schuster from the Department of Physics said, “We found a simple trick to increase the absorption of slim solar cells. Our research shows that our idea actually competes with the absorption improvement of more sophisticated designs – while absorbing more light deep inside the plane and less light near the surface structure itself.
“Our design rule fulfills all relevant aspects of light capture for solar cells and paves the way for simple, practical, yet outstanding diffractive structures with potential effects beyond photonic applications.
“This design offers the potential to further integrate solar cells into thinner, flexible materials, thus creating more opportunities to use solar energy in more products.”
The study suggests that the design principle could affect not only the solar cell or LED field, but also applications such as soundproof shields, windshields, non-slip surfaces, biosensor applications and atomic cooling.
Dr. Schuster added: “In principle, we would use ten times more solar energy with the same amount of absorber material: Ten times thinner solar cells could enable rapid expansion of photovoltaics, increase solar power production and significantly reduce our carbon footprint.
“Because refining the silicon feedstock is such an energy-intensive process, silicon cells ten times thinner would not only reduce the need for refineries but also cost less, enabling our transition to a greener economy.”
Data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy shows that renewables – including solar – accounted for 47% of UK electricity production in the first three months of 2020.
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Materials provided by University of York. Note: the content can be edited by style and length.