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Photovoltaics in the Energy Industry and Nanotechnology


The field of nanotechnology goes back to the past due 1950's when theoretical physicist Richard Feynman gave his famous chat called "There's Plenty of Room in the bottom". In his discussion, he introduced the idea of the control and manipulation of things i. e. atoms, molecules, at one minute scale. It had been K. Eric Drexler who popularised the word nanotechnology after deploying it in the title of his publication "Machines of Creation: The Arriving Time of Nanotechnology". The term nanotechnology can be explained as the knowledge of studying very small things or in other words learning things at the nanoscale (1-100nm).

During the second option part of the 20th century increasing advances in microscopy technology such as SFM, AFM and TEM allowed experts to see nanoparticles. A particles properties greatly changes when the particle is in the nanoscale range. This is because of the Quantum Results phenomena. Properties such as melting point, fluorescence, electric conductivity, magnetic permeability, and chemical reactivity are significantly altered as how big is a particle grows to the nanoscale. Due to the quantum effects that occur at this range, a materials properties can be tuned to provide a desired property by changing the size and condition of the particle. There are however a great many other parameters that have an impact on a materials properties these will be are more obvious later.

A simple example in which a materials properties change with lowering size to the nanoscale is that of the aspect gold. To the human eye silver appears to be a yellow coloring while nanoscale platinum a reddish colour is observed. This is because of this of the previously mentioned quantum effects, in cases like this the electrons of nanoscale silver particles are trapped (confined) and as a result react diversely with light providing a different shade. This trapping of electrons property (quantum confinement) will further discussed later.

As due to the many desired properties that can be found in nanomaterials, numerous sectors and fields likewise have and are expanding applications incorporating nanotechnology. The previously mentioned example of silver nanoparticles are utilised within a number applications of the medical industry. Biomedical applications for laser phototherapy, therapeutic real estate agents as well as medicine service providers have all been developed using yellow metal nanoparticles. 1

The previously mentioned property of increased reactivity that occurs at the nanoscale relates to another specific property nanomaterials attain. As the size of a particle reduces the surface area raises. This upsurge in surface area has a deep effect on the reactivity between materials i. e. greatly improved reactivity. A number of different applications reap the benefits of this nanoscale property including applications relating to the industry such as catalysts, energy storage and energy conversion devices.

Nanotechnology has led to fabrication of novel devices and equipment and also many applications in a variety of fields none more so than the power industry. Although several strides have been made in recent years in new systems in the power, current technologies cannot cope with man kinds ever increasing demand for energy. Therefore, there still remains a need to build up new sustainable energy technologies without detrimentally effecting the surroundings. Many leading experts in the energy industry believe that nanotechnology is the way onward to curbing these energy issues. 2, 3

Photovoltaics in the Industry

Nanotechnology has in recent ages been contained into a number of solutions in the vitality industry that utilise solar radiation as an energy source. Exploiting the sun's energy is by very good one of the most suitable ways out of all the green energy resources which exist for several reasons. Solar technology is free and fundamentally limitless as solar technology provides about 15, 000 times more energy in a calendar year than is actually needed to meet the worlds current energy needs. 2

According to a 2014 alternative energy article by Eurostat the quantity of renewable energy produced by EU member expresses increased by 73. 1% between 2004 and 2014. Despite this increase only 16% of the EU's total energy ingestion was from the green energy sector. The majority of the rest of the energy that was consumed came from fossil fuel established energy sources. Of the total renewable energy used, solar technology accounted for only 6. 1% of total amount. These reports highlight the improvements have been made in incorporating alternative energy, but also emphasize the potential you can find to combine more solar founded renewable energy. 3

The need to include more alternative energy and replace existing fossil fuel based mostly energy resources such as coal, gas and engine oil stems from their negative environmental impact. The ever increasing global temperature are directly relating to growing CO2 levels, this is partly is therefore of the upsurge in the consumption of fossil fuels since the industrial revolution and peaking today in the first 21st century.

The insufficient utilisation of solar technology systems such as photovoltaics (The 2014 GSR record indicates only 1 1. 2% of global electricity creation comes from photovoltaics) despite it being free and its own wide abundance is largely anticipated to cost. 4 It is the main reason photovoltaic devices have failed to become more mainstream especially compared to non-renewable founded energy sources who's cost per Watt of electricity are generally lower. The price of electricity produced from photovoltaics has certainly lowered in recent years as specified in the Renewables 2016 Global Position Article. Prices in Germany for photovoltaic electricity have been quoted to be as low as 0. 08/kWh which is related to the equivalent price of gas. Despite this body the costs of photovoltaic electricity can be further be reduced with continuing developments in its systems.

Electricity is produced in PV solar panels by alteration of photons from the light harnessed from the sun, usually known as the photoelectric impact. Traditionally PV's are fabricated using silicon wafer centered solar panels. These wafers made up of crystalline silicon are generally between 150-300 nm thick and these mainly remain the key material in PV fabrication today. A variation to these PV devices includes utilising semiconducting thin films together with complimentary silicon wafers. This method is a more affordable method but suffers from poor photon to electricity conversion rates. 2

The integration of nanomaterials specifically nanocrystals in the fabrication PV devices can suppress a few of the limitations that currently are present. First, the capability to control the bandgap provides versatility and inter-changeability. Second nanostructured materials enhance the effective optical path and significantly decrease the probability of fee recombination. Thirdly & most significantly solar panels utilising nanocrystals show great potential as an inexpensive alternative to regular solar cells. Solution centered synthesis methods like the colloidal method has a comparatively straight forward process. The solution containing nanocrystals can easily and effectively be integrated into a solar cell using a number of low priced deposition techniques. As well as these facts copper founded nanocrystals have fascinated a offer of attention due to their abundance and low priced, which further emphasises the probability of nanocrystals replacing conventional solar cells. Amount 1 below provides contrasting schematic's of the traditional silicon based solar cells against the new generation of solar panels.


Figure 1. Conventional vs Nanostructured Solar cells. 2

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