Silicon Microwires Could Have a Sunny Future

By Phil McKenna in Technology Review, January 7 2010


The race for inexpensive, highly efficient solar cells may have gained another contender in the form of silicon microwires. Efforts to develop ultra-thin wires that convert sunlight into electricity are not new to the solar power field, but a new method for growing the wires has roughly doubled their conversion efficiency and may hold the key for even larger gains.

"All wires thus far have had 1 or 2 percent efficiency [at the array level] with fundamental questions about whether they could ever go higher," says Nathan Lewis, a chemist at Caltech who coauthored the study, which appears in Science."We've demonstrated 3 percent efficiency and shown that there is no fundamental reason they can't perform at over 10 percent."

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