Researchers successfully use sticky tape to build ultrathin, light-weight solar cells

28/07/2015

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Researchers have successfully used sticky tape to help build ultrathin 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.

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

Dr 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.”

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

This article originally appeared on ABC News. The Australian National University is one of the four major shareholders of ATP Innovations – including the University of Sydney, University of NSW and the University of Technology, Sydney.

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