Scientists at Stanford University have developed an ultra-thin, light-absorbing material that could eventually be used to create inexpensive solar cells. In a news release, researchers stated that the new material, which is only several nanometers thick and absorbs 99 percent of the light that hits it, is significantly thinner and lighter than any known material with the same properties.
By laying gold dots only 14 nanometers by 7 nanometers onto a wafer, the research team was able to “tune” the dots so that they absorbed particular wavelengths of light. They found that the wafers were incredibly efficient and could potentially be used as materials for a whole new class of solar cells.
“Our results show that it is possible for an extremely thin layer of material to absorb almost 100 percent of incident light of a specific wavelength,” Stacey Bent, a professor of chemical engineering at Stanford, said in the news release. “Achieving complete absorption of visible light with a minimal amount of material is highly desirable for many applications, including solar energy conversion to fuel and electricity.”
It remains to be seen if these wafers can actually be applied to solar cell technology, as these experiments only proved they could absorb light. The scientists need to run additional tests to see if the wafers will be able to convert the absorbed wavelengths into electricity.