Household sticky tape used create high-tech, ultra-thin solar cells

Household sticky tape used to create high-tech, ultra-thin solar cells

8:24 AM, 28th July 2015
Household sticky tape used to create high-tech, ultra-thin solar cells
Dr Yuerui Lu (centre) led a team which used household tape to shave thinner and thinner layers of crystals from the black crystalline form of phosphorus.

CANBERRA, AUSTRALIA: Researchers have successfully used sticky tape to help build ultra-thin and light-weight solar cells that could improve the way solar energy is collected, according to scientists at the Australian National University in Canberra.

Solar cells are used to collect energy from the sun to convert into electrical power for portable devices such as lights, radios and computers.

The team used normal adhesive tape to create single-atom thick layers called phosphorene in the same way as the recent nobel-prize winning discovery of graphene. The phosphorene works as a semiconductor, but is thinner and lighter than the silicon which is generally used in devices such as LEDs or solar cells.

Lead researcher Dr Yuerui (Larry) Lu said the household tape was used to peel thinner and thinner layers of crystals from the black crystalline form of phosphorus. “Previously people used the scotch tape (sticky tape) technique to thin down the graphite down to one layer called graphene,” he said. “So we borrowed this type of technique to produce the thin layer of phosphorene from the black crystal.”

Researchers said the phosphorene was thin, light and had semiconductor properties that could be used to replace silicon in some technology.

Lu said the behaviour of phosphorene in thin layers was superior to silicon and could be tuned to better harvest solar energy for thousands of devices. “Because this type of material has tuneable energy gaps, the wave lengths move to longer wave length reading if we increase the layer numbers, which means we have different types of options if we change the thickness,” he said.

“This is more flexible than silicon which has a fixed energy gap,” said Lu.

The research has been published in the Nature serial journal Light: Science and Applications.

© Australian National University News

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