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Research team is looking to make solar panels more efficient and give LEDs color changing capability

A pair of researchers at Arizona State University has announced a new advancement in making nanowires that could one day lead to significantly more efficient solar panels and LED lighting that is color changeable. The engineers who made the advance are Cun-Zheng Ning and Alian Pan.

The pair are working on ways to improve the quaternary alloy semiconductor nanowire raw materials. The nanowires the pair work with are nanometers in diameter and tens of microns in length. They are made from four elements, typically by alloying two or more compound semiconductors.

The researchers say that the band gap is the most important thing that controls how solar panels absorb sunlight and what color light LEDs produce. The more available band gaps for solar panels, the more of the spectrum of light panels will be able to absorb. With LEDs, more band gaps mean more colors of light can be produced. 

The big hurdle for the researchers is that naturally occurring and manmade semiconductors today only have a specific band gap. The only way to widen the band gap available to the semiconductor is to compound two or more semiconductors. The trick to accomplishing the alloy of semiconductors is that they two have to have a lattice with similar inter-atomic spaces to match and be grown together.

Ning said, "This is why we cannot grow alloys of arbitrary compositions to achieve arbitrary band gaps. This lack of available band gaps is one of reasons current solar cell efficiency is low, and why we do not have LED lighting colors that can be adjusted for various situations."

So far, the team has been able to create a zinc sulfide and cadmium selenide alloy to produce a quaternary semiconductor – this is the first time that a quaternary semiconductor has been produced in the form of a nanowire or nanoparticle. The team is now studying the application and use of the quaternary alloy materials for making solar cells and has developed a lateral multi-cell design panel.

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RE: Promises promises
By mfed3 on 3/22/2010 11:25:09 AM , Rating: 0
Exactly, how many times do I have to read the same bullshit article saying "new technologies allow for solar panels to be cheaper and more efficient"....and then nothing happens. Yea. Maybe we should stop reporting this crap until a real, affordable product comes out that uses it.

RE: Promises promises
By SoulBlighter on 3/22/10, Rating: 0
RE: Promises promises
By porkpie on 3/22/2010 1:13:41 PM , Rating: 3
" but never ben funded enough for the research, till recently"

The US DOE has been spending billions on solar technology since the late 1970s. One of the first large-scale solar plant was Solar One in the Mojave, which began construction in 1979. In 1980, a PV based system was built in Utah, also funded by DOE dollars.

Counting NASA and corporate research on PV panels for satellite operation, research actually began in earnest in the late 1960s.

Yet despite all that, solar power today is still 4-10X as expensive as conventional sources, and up to 50X as expensive for power delivered when the sun isn't shining.

"Please do some research before making such remarks."

Oh, what irony...

RE: Promises promises
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 4:06:03 PM , Rating: 2
The US DOE has been spending billions on solar technology since the late 1970s.

How much of that was research, and how much was construction?

RE: Promises promises
By martinrichards23 on 3/22/2010 11:55:48 AM , Rating: 3
Just because the technology doesn't appear on your supermarket shelf 6 weeks later doesn't mean it nothing has happened.

RE: Promises promises
By shin0bi272 on 3/22/2010 12:33:51 PM , Rating: 3
no I agree with him. They invented solar panels that were twice as efficient (PbSe) back in 05 and we havent seen any of them yet. There have been dozens of these types of reports here on DailyTech and we havent seen any of these ideas come to fruition. You go do a google search for solar panels to purchase right now... I'll wait....

doo bee doo bee dooooo....

Done? Ok...

Did you find anything in any online store or on any number you called that was anything other than a standard silicon panel? probably not unless you searched for a few days. The fact is while technology may be a little slow to develop, if these "breakthroughs" were really all that meaningful we would see them on the market within a year or two... not 5 or 10 or 20. Why? Because if it was worth investing in people would make panels out of this new material, sell it so an investor or two (maybe a venture capitalist) and get it out to market asap to bring down the cost of solar for everyone while making a tidy profit for themselves.

Hell more than half the work of a solar panel is in the design and manufacture of the things. Once youve got a material to make them and a design to do so you just have to get funding to start cranking them out... It doesnt take THAT long if you are changing a product that already exists either. There are already solar panel companies around the country (well that one in MA just shipped all of its jobs to china) so all you'd have to do is take your new material to them and tell them how to make it (i.e. patent it and sell them the rights to manufacture and distribute it) and boom new solar panel tech! no line no waiting!

That's the beauty of capitalism if you have an idea that works or improves something and you can manufacture it you are usually (I say usually because there are unions, licensing boards, patents, cronies of politicians running a competing business, and on and on to get in your way now... good old fascism dont cha know)... but we dont see any of these amazing new breakthroughs on the shelves do we? no.

I suppose the people who invent these things and patent them dont give out their ideas for free any more (no more Ben Franklins I guess)... and they dont do it "for the good of the planet" or whatever so money is probably the factor holding up these new technologies.

Hey How about DT only posts solar panel articles when a new Panel actually HITS the market? That way we dont all get our hopes up and have to wait 20 years for the government subsidies to kick in... cause ya know its not a REAL green product till the government gives you billions to produce it.

RE: Promises promises
By SPOOFE on 3/22/2010 12:49:01 PM , Rating: 3
They invented solar panels that were twice as efficient (PbSe) back in 05 and we havent seen any of them yet.

Yeah. Stuff's hard to make. The dominating technology isn't that which is technically "the best", it's "the best we can make at an affordable price". A huge amount of R&D is figuring out to to mass-produce an item, not simply cobble together a few proof-of-concept versions in a lab.

That's why some technology advances faster than others. You hear about new carbon nanotube discoveries several times a week because just about every lab on Earth can afford graphite.

RE: Promises promises
By adiposity on 3/22/2010 1:47:11 PM , Rating: 2
Just because the technology doesn't appear on your supermarket shelf 6 weeks later doesn't mean it nothing has happened.

If they don't ever appear anywhere, can we then saying, "nothing has happened"? Because that's usually the case with these incremental solar advancements.

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