Researchers at the University of California, San Diego are trying to improve the efficiency of photovoltaic cells by adding nanowires:
In both cases, the idea is the same: use nanowires to more efficiently conduct electrons from the collection surface of the solar cell to an electrode. Contemporary thin-film solar cells provide no direct conduit for electron travel.
If the process scales well, it has the potential to dramatically improve the efficiency of next-generation solar photovoltaic panels.
“If nanowires are going to be used massively in photovoltaic devices, then the growth mechanism of nanowires on arbitrary metallic surfaces is an issue of great importance,” said Paul Yu, a professor at UC San Diego, and a member of the project team which published the nanowire research. “We contributed one approach to growing nanowires directly on metal.”