LONDON Research organization IMEC (Leuven, Belgium) has started work on a collaborative research project to improve the efficiency and cost of solar cells though the use of metallic nanostructures.
The project, PRIMA, is funded under the European Union's 7th framework program for ICT (FP7) and includes: Imperial College (London, UK), Chalmers University of Technology (Sweden), Photovoltech NV (Tienen, Belgium), QuantaSol Ltd. (Kingston-upon-Thames, England) and Australian National University.
The project is set to last three years and has a budget of 2.3 million euro (about $3 million).
PRIMA stands for Plasmon Resonance for IMproving the Absorption of solar cells. Certain specifically nanostructured metallic surfaces have shown the ability to absorb and intensify light at specific wavelengths. This is because the incoming light results in a collective oscillation of the electrons at the metal's surface, known as plasmons. Plasmonics can be exploited to transmit optical signals through nanosized interconnects on chips, in nanoparticles that recognize and interact with biomolecules, or in solar cells.
With solar cells, metallic nanostructures can boost the absorption of light in the cell's photoactive material. With enhanced light absorption, it is possible to produce cells with less base material and thus thinner, lighter and lower-cost cells. Metal nanostructures can improve the absorption in a variety of solar cells including crystalline silicon, cells based on high-performance III-V semiconductors, or organic and dye-sensitized solar cells.
The aims of the PRIMA project are to gain insight into the physical mechanisms of metallic nanostructures, and see how these structures can integrated into the production of solar cells.
For this, they will test a number of structures, benchmarking them against state-of-the-art solar cells. The performance and applicability of these cells will then be assessed by solar cell companies that are participating in the project.
European science traditionally is a leader in both the fields of photovoltaics and plasmonics and this project helps to maintain Europe's strong position. Moreover it provides the participating industrial partners with a competitive advantage, which should create employment and sustainable economic growth in Europe, while simultaneously contributing to a reduction of the emission of greenhouse gases.
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PRIMA home page
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