A University of Idaho professor is devising a new form of solar cell she says could lead to a breakthrough that would make solar energy commercially feasible. Chemist Pam Shapiro, her graduate students and her colleagues at the university are working on creating better materials and combining them in new ways that could more than double the efficiency of present solar cells. If successful, she said the new technology could help the U.S. break its oil dependency.
“People are trying to make solar cells that are more efficient,” Shapiro told The Lewiston Tribune. “But it’s so much cheaper to use fossil fuels, despite all the obvious advantages of solar cell technology.”
So far, Shapiro’s team has created a compound called a “quantum dot” that is made of elements that include copper, indium and selenium. Shapiro said that the quantum dots would be embedded between layers of a solar cell and would absorb energy that is otherwise wasted due to overheating.
“These solar cells based on quantum dots aim to make better use of that excess energy,” Shapiro said.
She said her team has created the quantum dots, but that a working prototype is years away and completion will likely require the combined skills and knowledge of her colleagues at the school. – physorg