First-of-its-kind microscope to lead to better solar cells

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Washington, January 2 (ANI): A team of scientists from the South Dakota State University (SDSU) are all set to build a first-of-its-kind microscope that could ultimately help in the development of better solar cells for converting sunlight to electricity.

Professor Venkateswara Bommisetty in SDSU's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science will build a new photoactivated, scanning probe microscopy tool that makes significant improvements on the existing scanning probe microscope.

"It will simultaneously measure efficiency-limiting factors by identifying defects, their structure and locations in a wide variety of solar cells, that existing microscopes are not able to do," Bommisetty said.

"This instrument will also probe the light-energy conversion mechanisms in other optoelectronic devices such as light-emitting diodes," he added.

An SDSU team under Bommisetty's leadership will develop the new equipment.

Bommisetty noted that there are three types of solar cells, namely, inorganic solar cells based on materials, such as silicon; organic solar cells that use carbon-based polymers; and hybrid solar cells that combine different technologies.

"The faculty members at SDSU are working on all three types of solar cells. In each of the respective solar cells, the challenges are different," Bommisetty said.

"We know that all these technologies can be far more efficient than what they are today. The problem is, we don't know what factors are limiting the efficiencies of these solar cells," he said.

"This microscope is specifically designed to identify defects that limit solar cell efficiency," he added.

Developing such a microscope has been the goal of solar cell researchers for a long time.

Importantly, the scanning probe microscopy tool is designed to measure different variables at the same time - a key advance in such technology.

Bommisetty said that SDSU already is acquiring components and researchers will begin assembling the new scanning probe microscopy tool in 2010.

One version of the microscope will go into the molecular electronics bay of a new 1.25 million dollars SDSU cleanroom, planned for construction in 2010, so that scientists can use it to test new solar cells. (ANI)

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