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Nanotech boost for solar cells

Source: UK Trade & Investment services, 18 Jan 2009

New-generation nanotechnology solar cells are being developed at Surrey University for German energy giant E.ON.  The university’s Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) has received 1 million euro (£0.9 million) to research energy production, conversion and storage.  A key focus will be organic alternatives to mainstream silicon-based cells, which while being relatively efficient are expensive and difficult to make.

Professor Ravi Silva and his team aim to incorporate carbon nanotubes to boost the power conversion of organic cells from their current 4% to 5% efficiency to 10% or more. The three-year project is funded by E.ON’s Application of Nanotechnology in the Energy Business scheme, which aims to advance innovative energy-producing applications.

Professor Silva stated: “The aim is to commercialise this technology for the wider market. If we can reduce the cost, solar technology will no longer be a specialist item and can be used to supplement every-day energy requirements within the home and business on a cost-competitive basis.”

At the nano level – one nanometre is one billionth of a metre, thousands of times smaller than the diametre of a human hair – materials become subject to quantum-mechanical effects as the laws of physics change.  E.ON says that its “innovate.on” programme aims to play a leading role in the development of key energy-supply technologies that are efficient while protecting the environment.

Copyright © Press Association 2009