Cool Solar Tech with Graphene

We’ve known about graphene, , for many decades, and in 2004 U. Manchester succeeded in fabricating some

Graphene is a 2D film of Carbon, which has a lot of interesting properties:

  • “It is 200 times stronger than steel, yet incredibly lightweight and flexible.
  • It is electrically and thermally conductive but also transparent.
  • It is the world’s first 2D material and is one million times smaller than the diameter of a single human hair.”

For more than a decade, we’ve been waiting for all the cool things that can be done with this interesting material.

And they are coming fast now, too fast and too technical for me to follow in detail.

One area where graphene is looking interesting is photo voltaics for solar power.

This spring, I’ve seen a scheme for graphene “nanocones”, which could help focus light to improve PV cells.  Min Gu and his colleagues at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology predict that “Through integrating the nanocone arrays into a-Si thin film solar cells, up to 15% enhancement of light absorption was predicted in the ultraviolet and visible ranges.” [2]

Even cooler is a report by Qunwei Tang and colleagues from Ocean University of China. They have combined graphene with a photocell, so that the graphene generates electricity when in contact with (salty) water.

The new solar cell can be excited by incident light on sunny days and raindrops on rainy days,” [1]

Cool! All-weather solar cells! Now you’re talking!

I note that this not only generates more power on rainy days, it also generates at least a little power on rainy nights! (Maybe–here we are outside my own understanding.)

OK, the current prototype is small scale ad kind of fiddly, so there is plenty of work to be done. But this is a really great idea, and I want one!


 

  1. Tang, Qunwei, Xiaopeng Wang, Peizhi Yang, and Benlin He, A Solar Cell That Is Triggered by Sun and Rain. Angewandte Chemie International Edition:n/a-n/a, 2016. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/anie.201602114
  2. Yue, Zengji, Boyuan Cai, Lan Wang, Xiaolin Wang, and Min Gu, Intrinsically core-shell plasmonic dielectric nanostructures with ultrahigh refractive index. Science Advances, 2 (3) 2016. http://advances.sciencemag.org/content/2/3/e1501536.abstract

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