May 17, 2019 08:38 AM EDT
One way to cope with the growing demand in energy supply is by harvesting solar energy. Today's technology has been able to supply humanity with clean solar energy by employing solar panels. However, having solar panels installed means procuring equipment that is more expensive as compared to the conventional energy supply equipment.
This is why a researcher from Loughborough University worked on a new way to create solar panels. He explored panels made from cadmium telluride which is the crystalline compound formed from cadmium and tellurium. The researcher discovered that by adding a new element the panels would yield even more power. The element he added to the mix is selenium.
Cadmium telluride is only second to silicon as the most common solar technology available in the world.
The efficiency of the panels was boosted from 19.5% to a new record of 22.1% with the addition of selenium. Scientists are still unclear about how the selenium helped in boosting the panel efficiency.
The paper's lead author, Thomas Fiducia, a Ph.D. student at the University of Loughborough's Center for Renewable Energy Systems Technology, stated that good solar cell material that is defect free is very efficient at emitting light. The team used this property to show the effect of selenium on harvesting energy.
The scientists were able to come up with surprising results where selenium overcomes a big defect in standard cadmium telluride panels. This explains why there are higher yields when selenium is added.
Fiducia points out that the results could be beneficial to other forms of solar panels and two other technologies that depend on the same process.
The scientist further stated that the lessons learned in their work could be transferable to other solar cell materials and the optoelectronic devices like LEDs and detectors that are powered by infrared.
Their discovery also opens doors for the use of more selenium to boost cadmium telluride panels further. The lead author explained that if efficiency can be increased, this would further decrease prices imposed by electric consumption and have a direct positive impact on regions that adopt the use of clean energy resources.
The addition of selenium to the cadmium telluride photovoltaic modules is then concluded to reduce the bandgap of the absorbent material which then increases the cell short circuit current.
While there is good news regarding selenium, EnergySage points out that cadmium is relatively abundant being a byproduct in processes like making zinc, however, it is also relatively toxic.
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