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Absorbing solar energy with a checkerboard design

Materials World magazine
13 Oct 2020

Solar panels designed with checkerboard lines can increase light absorption capabilities by 125%, claims a team from the University of York, UK.

‘We found a simple trick for boosting the absorption of slim solar cells,’ says Dr Christian Schuster from the University’s Department of Physics. ‘Our investigations show that our idea actually rivals the absorption enhancement of more sophisticated designs, while also absorbing more light deep in the plane and less light near the surface structure itself.

‘Our design rule meets all relevant aspects of light-trapping for solar cells, clearing the way for simple, practical, and yet outstanding diffractive structures, with a potential impact beyond photonic applications.’

In partnership with NOVA University of Lisbon, the team claims the study could lead to thinner, lighter and more flexible solar panels to power more homes and a wider range of products. Applications could include acoustic noise shields, wind break panels, anti-skid surfaces, biosensing applications and atomic cooling.

‘In principle, we would deploy ten times more solar power with the same amount of absorber material – ten times thinner solar cells could enable a rapid expansion of photovoltaics, increased solar electricity production and greatly reduce our carbon footprint,’ says Schuster.

‘In fact, as refining the silicon raw material is such an energy-intensive process, ten times thinner silicon cells would not only reduce the need for refineries but also cost less, hence empowering our transition to a greener economy.’