Sunday, September 26, 2010

Light-absorbing materials

All solar cells require a light absorbing material contained within the cell structure to absorb photons and generate electrons via the photovoltaic effect. The materials used in solar cells tend to have the property of preferentially absorbing the wavelengths of solar light that reach the Earth surface. However, some solar cells are optimized for light absorption beyond Earth's atmosphere as well. Light absorbing materials can often be used in multiple physical configurations to take advantage of different light absorption and charge separation mechanisms.
Photovoltaic panels are normally made of either silicon or thin-film cells:
Many currently available solar cells are configured as
bulk materials that are subsequently cut into wafers and treated in a "top-down" method of synthesis (silicon being the most prevalent bulk material).
Other materials are configured as thin-films (inorganic layers, organic dyes, and organic polymers) that are deposited on supporting substrates, while a third group are configured as nanocrystals and used as quantum dots (electron-confined nanoparticles) embedded in a supporting matrix in a "bottom-up" approach. Silicon remains the only material that is well-researched in both bulk (also called wafer-based) and thin-film configurations.

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