BP and The California Institute of Technology (Caltech) are teaming up in a five-year program to explore the production of solar cells based on growing arrays of silicon nanorods rather than casting ingots and cutting wafers.
Announced at the Photovoltaics Summit 2006 in San Diego, the project could drop production costs and increase current efficiency levels.
A solar cell based on an array of nanorods will be able to efficiently absorb light along the length of the rods by collecting the electricity generated by sunlight more efficiently than a conventional solar cell, according to BP and Caltech
This program represents a significant commitment by BP to the long term potential of solar energy and compliments our existing technology programs with the promise for major breakthroughs in solar technology. Nanorod technology offers enormous promise however, like any new technology, challenges remain to make it commercially viable at scale.—Lee Edwards, BP Solar president
The Caltech solar nanorod program will be directed by two leading scientists at Caltech, Dr. Nate Lewis and Dr. Harry Atwater. Dr. Lewis is the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry and is an expert in the areas of surface chemistry and photochemistry. Dr. Atwater is the Howard Hughes Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and is an expert in electronic and optoelectronic materials and devices. In addition, eight postdoctoral researchers and graduate students will work on the program.
Lewis’ group will investigate uses of nanotechnology to create designer solar cell materials, from nanorods to nanowires, in order to change the conventional paradigm for solar cell materials.
Atwater’s group will investigate approaches to create silicon-based single junction and compound semiconductor multijunction nanorod solar cells, using vapor deposition synthesis methods that are scaleable to very large areas.
BP Solar, part of BP, has four major manufacturing plants worldwide, located in Spain, Australia, India and the United States, with more than 90-megawatts (MW) of solar-cell fab capacity right now. The co, the company aims to more than double its current production to 200-MW by the end of 2006.
In April, BP Solar and Santander, a leading European and Latin American banking group, announced the largest development project for the investment in photovoltaic solar energy yet in Europe. The project will deploy up to 278 photovoltaic solar energy facilities in Spain with a total aggregate capacity ranging between 18 and 25 MW. This represents twice Spain’s current photovoltaic solar energy capacity, according to the companies. (Earlier post.)