DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

Scientists Make Quantum Leap in Solar Power

3/1/2012
By Eric Beidel
In its quest for alternative sources of power, the military has been turning to solar panels. The services have been trying them out on installations and on the backs of troops.

Researchers at the University of Buffalo are hoping to significantly increase the amount of sunlight that solar cells can convert into electricity.

Working with the Army Research Laboratory and Air Force Office of Scientific Research, University of Buffalo engineers have shown that embedding charged quantum dots into solar cells could improve electrical output by enabling them to harvest infrared light and increasing the lifespan of photoelectrons. The technology can be applied to many different photovoltaic structures and could increase the efficiency of the cells by up to 45 percent, researchers say. The quantum dots have a significant built-in charge that forces electrons to contribute more to the electric current.

The concept is not new. Scientists a decade ago proposed that this technique could lead to greater efficiency by allowing panels to continue harvesting energy when there was little to no visible light. The current collaboration aims to push the concept forward to the market.

University researchers have formed OPtoElectronic Nanodevices LLC, or OPEN LLC, to seek funding from investors and federal programs in an effort to commercialize the technology.

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology

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