March 4, 2009

Better solar panel efficiency achieved

U.S. scientists say they have developed a titanium nanostructure that provides an expanded surface area and greater efficiency in the transport of electrons.

Boston College researchers said their achievement will help in developing solar panels thick enough to absorb sunlight, yet thin enough to collect and transport electrons with minimal energy loss.

Assistant Professor Dunwei Wang and his team said they found incorporating two titanium-based semiconductors into a nanoscale structure improved the efficiency of power-collecting efforts by approximately 33 percent.

The researchers said they achieved a peak conversion efficiency of 16.7 percent under ultraviolet light. That compared with an efficiency of 12 percent from a structure composed only of titanium dioxide. Wang said the efficiency gains within the novel material can serve so-called water-splitting, where semiconductor catalysts have been shown to separate and store hydrogen and oxygen gases.

The research team that included Yongjing Lin, Sa Zhou, Xiaohua Liu and Stafford Sheehan reports the process in the online edition of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.