Scientists want to improve solar cells with nanoparticles

One poppy seed in your morning bag is 1,000 times larger than a bacterial cell. That tiny cell is 1,000 times larger than chemical structures. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) researchers are creating and studying how to use energy.

A small, strange world

In such a small way, the world will be strange. Some known forces – such as gravity – never apply, while other phenomena – such as quantum wave shapes – have a profound effect. The ratio between the surface area and the size of a particle can change dramatically with even the most basic results.

March 03, 2016: Single-cell carbon nanotubes with different diameter distributions with filter bands that filter out the various components that create solid color solutions. NREL scientists Jeffrey Blackburn and Andrew Ferguson are co-authors of a paper published in Nature: Modified semiconductor carbon nanotubesets with improved thermal properties. (Photo by Dennis Schroeder / NREL)

It is in this strange world that many NREL researchers are discovering (or creating) key materials for tomorrow’s energy systems. “When you go down to the nanoscale, you usually give them materials that they do not have,” says Andrew Ferguson, director of the Spectroscope and Photosynthesis Research Team at NREL.

These new properties are the main picture for material scientists. “I really like the flexibility of nanometric materials and how much you can do with them,” said NREL researcher NREL, who works on layers of nanosic semiconductors. Nanometerials are so versatile that they appear everywhere.

This versatility is the key to NREL nanomaterials research. By altering the size, shape, or composition of nanosyl particles and structures, researchers can carefully control their properties. And by combining structures with the right asset mix, materials can be made to fit the desired function. NREL senior scientist Joy Luther said: “What makes nanometric objects interesting is the fact that they have the same properties as large compounds, but other new and exciting flexible features appear on nanosical that expand the scope of applications.

As an example, a semiconductor can be adjusted to produce certain colors at quantity points of almost 100% efficiency. (Image above shows similar results) If you have seen QLED or OLED TV, you have seen nanometric objects in action. NREL researchers hope to exploit similar properties, or even new ones, in many different applications.

Hold more power, from more places

Not surprisingly, NREL researchers have studied a number of ways to deal with solar energy with nanoparticles. For the next generation of photovoltaic technologies, nanometric materials can allow solar cells to be produced faster than conventional, more expensive materials. For example, thin films of lead-sulfide or perovskite quantum droplets can easily be printed in a solar cell. Such materials can be “adjusted” to absorb different wavelengths, making them promising for low-cost, high-performance multi-layer solar cells.

In part because of their relatively large surface area-to-volume ratio, nanometers can also be used as a powerful stimulus to trigger multiple responses. For example, layers of semiconductors with only three atoms can absorb sunlight to produce hydrogen gas or other solar energy.

In the laboratory, two scientists took pictures, one containing a small solar cell. Several brightly colored bottles were placed in front of them.
NREL scientists Joy Luther and Erin Sanerara will hold the Quantum Point Solar Cell, which established a new record in 2017. Colored glass contains solutions to quantum points related to cell development. Photo by Werner Slocum, NREL

Sunlight is the only energy nanometric device that cannot be used. More than 60% of the energy used to generate electricity in the United States has been lost, according to the US Energy Information Agency. Thermoelectric devices can convert waste heat into electricity. With nuclear batteries already present in nuclear batteries, nanological structures can make these devices more efficient and inexpensive, allowing them to absorb heat from additional earth sources.

NREL researchers are studying radio frequency signals or electronic rockets, which can collect the required electrical current. New materials, such as carbon nanotubes, are helping to increase the efficiency of these devices, introducing a new distributed energy production method.

Computer transistors with note

In addition to energy and chemical production, NREL’s nanological research explores ways to revolutionize our computers (and how much energy they consume).

Neuromorphic computers are simpler than traditional computers, using electronic devices that are imprinted in our brains rather than remote transistors. Memory-computing computers can be more efficient and powerful than today’s computers, which are ultimately limited by the size of transistors. NREL researchers are working to develop better materials for notes, and nanometrical materials play a leading role.

Nanomaterials are contributing to NREL in quantum computing.

Back to the basics

All the nanometric research on NREL is strongly supported by basic material research. While many nanomaterials are close to practical applications and businesses, many others require years of detailed study to fully understand and implement them. Fortunately, NREL scope skills and professions can support both. It is one of the benefits of our philosophy in NREL. We have been given the ability to develop both basic and practical research, ”Ferguson said.

This new, perhaps unimaginable discovery, is the hope of many NREL researchers. “Nanomaterials represent a great opportunity for the development of new functional materials,” said Laura Lihass, who heads the NREL Mixed and Nanosical Materials Chemistry Research Team. I believe researchers have just begun to use these unique properties, and we will continue to see tremendous growth in this area.

Learn more about NREL work nanomaterials And Neuromorphic and quantum computation.

Article by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL)

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