Scientists have demonstrated that the efficiency of all solar panel designs could be improved by up to 22 per cent by covering their surface with aluminium studs that bend and trap light inside the absorbing layer.
At the microscopic level, the studs make the surface of the solar panels look similar to the interlocking building bricks played with by children across the world.
Dr Hylton and his colleagues attached rows of aluminium cylinders just 100 nanometres across to the top of the solar panel, where they interact with passing light, causing individual light rays to change course. More energy is extracted from the light as the rays become effectively trapped inside the solar panel and travel for longer distances through its absorbing layer.
The future success of this technology opens up the possibility of making flexible solar panels that could be applied to any flat or curved surface, which could be used to power everything from domestic appliances to portable electronics like laptops.
Light scattering and absorption using metal nanoparticle arrays.
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