Nanowires Increase Efficiency of Solar Fuel Cell


As we have discussed here before on Tech Thursdays, scientists and engineers are constantly searching for ways to improve the efficiency of solar energy while maintaining or reducing the specialty materials involved in the process. The cost of converting solar energy into a usable fuel is generally one of its major limiting factors. However, new research from the Eindhoven University of Technology is offering an alternative to previous methods of connecting the fuel cell to the battery. The research team, partnered with the FOM Foundation, is combining nanowires with gallium phosphide to develop a more efficient way to transfer this energy.

If you haven’t been following us, developing technologies is a subject that is near and dear to ATS considering that we test for and remove outdated storage tanks and even developed our own tank testing equipment. Scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are constantly creating new technologies that make our daily lives easier, streamline difficult processes, improve the environment, and generally bring us closer as a global community. On most Thursdays, the ATS blog strives to bring you a new “tech” that we think is worth learning about!

In order for a solar cell to connect to a battery and produce energy, a semiconductor material is required. However, this conductor is usually the most expensive part of the process. The team’s proposal to create a grid of nanowires out of gallium phosphide (GaP) should increase efficiency of energy transfer while decreasing costs. Currently used as a conductor for colored LED lights, that we have previously covered, GaP applied to nanowires instead of flat cells will require an estimated ten thousand times less material. The nanowires will also aid in the extraction of oxygen increasing the yield of hydrogen and therefore the amount of energy produced. The scientists predict that this increase will yield as much as ten percent hydrogen.

Although this technology still requires further testing and improvement according to its researchers, the increase efficiency and decreased cost are both factors that definitely makes it a contender in the future of solar energy. This new technology could one day be seen in many technology sources.