Building solar voltaic cells from nanowires instead of standard metal conductors can increase the amount of energy the cells can capture by a factor of 15, according to a new study by scientists from the Nano-Science Center in Denmark.
Published recently in the journal Nature Photonics, the study found that nanowires have unique light absorption properties that make it possible to harness much more energy from the sun's rays than was previously thought possible.
The research focused on improving the quality of the nanowire crystals, which have a cylindrical structure with a diameter of 1/10,000th that of a human hair.
Nanowires concentrate the sun's rays into a very small area in nanowire crystals and, because the diameter of a crystal is smaller than the wavelength of light coming from the sun, this can cause resonances in the intensity of light in and around nanowires. The resonance, in turn, offers a higher conversion efficiency for the sun's energy, according to Peter Krogstrup, a researcher at the Niels Bohr Institute.
Nanowires have great potential for use not only in solar cells, but also in quantum computers, said Krogstrup.
However, he cautioned, "it will take some years before production of solar cells consisting of nanowires becomes a reality."
This version of this story was originally published in Computerworld's print edition. It was adapted from an article that appeared earlier on Computerworld.com.