Sep 5, 2007

A Bar-Ilan professor's invention may revolutionize the use of solar energy.

A Bar-Ilan nanotechnology expert has invented a photovoltaic cell - which produces electricity from the sun's rays - that could be dramatically cheaper to produce.

"Initially, we created linked arrays of very small cells, which led to a loss of efficiency because the sunlight hitting the space between the cells was not converted to electricity," Zaban explained. With much more surface area, the new array actively captures the sun's energy and becomes "a practical choice for solar energy production," he said.

Zaban's cells feature a sponge-like array of microscopic "nanodots" arranged on flexible plastic sheets. The key to his system is the use of standard semiconductor material injected with an organic dye, which makes it become energy absorbent.

Orionsolar, a Jerusalem-based company that has entered into a partnership with Bar-Ilan, is developing commercial applications for inexpensive, dye-based photovoltaics based on Zaban's work.

"Given the state of the technology, I believe that the new solar cells will be available commercially within the next five years," he said. "This will mark the beginning of a whole new path that combines independence from fossil fuels with a greener, more sustainable future."

Another of his recent discoveries involves reducing the amount of platinum used in photovoltaic cells, another important step towards reducing production costs. "We've found a way to produce platinum nanodots ... [which] reduce the amount of platinum needed by a factor of 40," he said.

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