Science 2 min read

New Type Of Silicon Could Cut the Cost of Solar Technology

Dr. Sherman Wong With the New Type of Silicon | Image Credit: ANU

Dr. Sherman Wong With the New Type of Silicon | Image Credit: ANU

An international team of researchers has developed a new type of silicon that not only harnesses the sunlight better than the standard silicon but could potentially reduce the cost of solar technology.

According to the Australian National University researchers, their world-first invention could make renewable energy cheaper, even more than the existing power stations, and increase the efficiency of solar cells.

Silicon is cheap, abundant, and non-toxic. For this reason, it has been the primary raw materials used for solar cells. There’s just one problem.

The standard form of silicon is not efficient. “It does not use all available sunlight,” says senior researcher and ANU professor Jodie Bradby.

Bradby noted;

“Just by poking silicon with a tiny hard tip, we’ve created a more complex silicon capable of absorbing more sunlight than the standard type commonly used in solar cells.”

Until now, this form of silicon was believed to be unobtainable under average room temperature and pressure.

However, with the journal Physical Review Letters publication, the researchers not only proved that it could be done but in an effortless manner too.

So, how did the researchers create a new form of silicon?

A New Silicon For Cheaper Energy

It all began when the team started exploring a delightful property of the silicon.

Silicon can exist in many different crystal forms. And according to the first author of the paper, Dr. Sherman Wong, each of these forms have their unique and useful property.

In the standard silicon, the atoms have a square or cubic arrangement. However, the silicon which Wong and his team created – and called r8-Si – is more complicated.

It looks a little like a diamond on playing cards but in 3D.

“It’s an exciting field, and there is a multi-billion dollar industry built around silicon manufacturing, so silicon is a super important material that’s worth optimizing,” says Wong.

Now the researchers are trying to measure how well the new material absorbs light and behaves electrically. They also intend to create enough material to create a prototype solar cell.

“We also need to scale up and then work on integrating this material into existing solar industries. This will take another three to five years,” says Bradby.

Read More: China Plans To Build Solar Power Station in Space

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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