DominicBertolamiMay 25, 2017, 7:51:16 AM

A group of professors from University of Wyoming have discovered a way to dramatically improve the efficiency of solar cells by adding an alternative metal, manganese. The addition of the metal atoms can increase solar cell energy conversion by an average 300 to 700 per cent.

 

The discovery serves many functions including helping farmers access electric power in remote areas, and increasing the ability to use electric cars in large cities which helps in the reduction of smog.

 

UW professors, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, Jinke Tang and Yuri Dahnovsky, along with TeYu Chien, an assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Wenyong Wang, an associate professor of physics and astronomy, co-wrote the research paper which was later published in Applied Physics Letters last fall.

 

The paper, titled “Giant Photocurrent Enhancement by Transition Metal Doping in Quantum Dot Sensitized Solar Cells,” was funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Basic Energy Sciences (BES). This was  part of the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) Program.

“We added into the PbS quantum dot with 4 percent manganese atoms. Our expectations were a 4 percent increase in solar efficiency,” Dahnovsky says. “We had a 700 percent increase. That’s unusual.”

The quest for high efficiency solar cells has led to the search for new materials, like manganese.  Manganese could replace traditional silicon used for sensitizers and photoconductor oxide electrodes. Dahnovsky and Chien both believe this may lead to a technical revolution for industrial applications.

 

The new solar cells can greatly extend the battery life of anything from portable devices, to electric cars, which Chien believes will make use of both much more practical.

Dahnovsky adds:

“A farmer may need a water pump in a remote area to water his livestock,” he says. “If there’s no electricity, he may use solar cells to power the water pump.”

Farmers could also use solar-powered sensors with the ability to measure light, humidity, oxygen and temperature in their crop soil.