Solar energy holds the promise to power our world once fossil fuels are a part of history books. However, conventional solar cells are plagued with high cost of the materials used to produce them. To better conditions, researchers at Stanford University have come up with the first all-carbon solar cell that makes use of inexpensive materials to produce renewable energy. Moreover, the prototype can be coated onto a surface from a solution, thereby cutting manufacturing costs as well.
While previously developed all-carbon solar cells have middle active layer of carbon-based materials, the new prototype ditches expensive conductive metals such as silver and indium tin oxide completely. The solar cell uses graphene and single-walled carbon nanotubes, which promise excellent electrical conductivity and light absorption properties.
While the technology promises inexpensive solar cells, the claimed efficiency of less than 1 percent doesn’t make it an attractive proposition. The main problem here is that the all-carbon solar cell primarily absorbs light in the near-infrared spectrum and doesn’t produce any electricity from a broader wavelength, including the visible spectrum.
To better the credentials of their first all-carbon solar cell, the Stanford team is looking to enhance the smoothness of the solar cell and play with more carbon materials that can absorb light in the visible spectrum too.