Jul 27, 2012Science and Technology
Solar power from any semiconductor

Photovoltaics are the ultimate source of clean and renewable energy, but today’s technologies utilize relatively scarce and expensive semiconductors that are tricky or expensive to fabricate panels from. A novel technology from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory solves this problem, enabling low-cost and high-efficiency solar cells to be made from virtually any semiconductor material. “It’s time we put bad materials to good use,” says physicist Alex Zettl, who led the research along with colleague Feng Wang. The technology, called “screening-engineered field-effect photovoltaics,” or SFPV, “allows us to sidestep the difficulty in chemically tailoring many earth abundant, non-toxic semiconductors and instead tailor these materials simply by applying an electric field.” With this SFPV technology, Manufacturers can now produce solar panels using previously unsuitable, relatively inexpensive, and plentiful semiconductors such as metal oxides, sulfides, and phosphates.

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