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Posted Fri Sep 3 2010: from PhysOrg:
Cheaper, better solar cell is full of holes
A new low-cost etching technique developed at the U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory can put a trillion holes in a silicon wafer the size of a compact disc. As the tiny holes deepen, they make the silvery-gray silicon appear darker and darker until it becomes almost pure black and able to absorb nearly all colors of light the sun throws at it. At room temperature, the black silicon wafer can be made in about three minutes. At 100 degrees F, it can be made in less than a minute. The breakthrough by NREL scientists likely will lead to lower-cost solar cells that are nonetheless more efficient than the ones used on rooftops and in solar arrays today.... Could the same black-silicon etching result be achieved by substituting the inexpensive chloroauric acid for costly colloidal gold, and then mixing it as before with hydrogen peroxide and hydrofluoric acid? Yost and Branz wondered. Yes, it worked. "Chloroauric acid is much cheaper than colloidal gold," Branz said. "In essence, by skipping a few steps, they were able to make gold nanoparticles from the chloroauric acid at the same time as they were etching holes into the silicon with the gold they had made."... NREL estimates that the black silicon can reduce cell conversion costs by 4 to 8 percent, while using widely available industrial materials and equipment. "That's big," Goodrich added. "The people who are interested in this technology recognize that that difference is valuable real estate."
[Read more stories about: efficiency increase, technical cleverness, renewable energy]

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