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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 SoulBlighter on 3/22/2010 11:54:36 AM , Rating: 0
Please do some research before making such remarks. Solar Panels have been around for decades but never ben funded enough for the research, till recently. Always remember all the breakthrough coming for the more powerful and efficient solar panels will take at least 3-5 year to be commercial deployed. And not all of these innovations reach to commercial viability. I agree the part where we also need to know about the products which are commercially available for general public besides the innovations.

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 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?

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