UW Professor's Research Could Result in More Efficient Solar Cells

September 30, 2010
Man holding solar cell
Professor Bruce Parkinson conducts research in a University of Wyoming solar energy laboratory. In an article published in the journal Science, Parkinson and others report a major step toward developing more efficient solar cells.

A University of Wyoming professor's findings, published today (Thursday) in the international journal, Science, may open the door to new designs for inexpensive and higher efficiency solar cells.

Bruce Parkinson, distinguished professor in the Department of Chemistry and the School of Energy Resources at UW, is one of three authors of the Sept. 30 article, "Multiple Exciton Collection in a Sensitized Photovoltaic System." Other authors are Justin B. Sambur, a graduate student from Colorado State University who works with Parkinson at UW, and Thomas Novet with Voxtel Incorporated in Beaverton, Ore.

Parkinson explains that photovoltaic solar cells, like the ones that can be seen on an increasing number of roofs, convert only a small fraction of the energy in sunlight directly into electricity. Scientists have predicted that it is possible to increase their efficiency by converting the high-energy part of sunlight into additional electrical current.

"Despite results from other experiments showing that this was possible, no one had demonstrated the generation of this additional current in a photovoltaic device," Parkinson says.

The research at the University of Wyoming used a model photovoltaic system, containing small semiconducting particles called quantum dots, to demonstrate the collection of twice the number of electrons from high-energy photons.

He says the findings offer a major step toward developing more efficient solar cells.

Parkinson, who moved to UW from Colorado State University two years ago, has written more than 185 publications in professional journals, and holds five U.S. patents. Several agencies, including the Department of Energy and National Science Foundation, have funded his research. He is a consultant and reviewer for many private companies and government agencies. 

Science magazine, published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, is described as "the world's leading journal of original scientific research, global news, and commentary."

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