By Gary Thomas
The National Science Foundation has awarded a grant worth $390,000 to Professor Luke Hanley, Head of Chemistry at the University of Illinois at Chicago, to investigate coating techniques for solar panel films utilizing metal chalcogenide nanoparticles.
Professor Luke Hanley
It is possible to wrap these low-cost films over any object from buildings to vehicles to gain optimal sunshine exposure and generate electricity. Chalcogenides are comparatively copious, inexpensive and devoid of toxic elements such as tellurium or cadmium, which are generally used in solar cells.
Hanley informed that these solar panel films are more feasible through the use of low-cost, low-toxic materials and processes that allow economical coating without wasting much of the material.
Hanley’s team includes Research Assistant Professor of chemistry, Igor Bolotin, and graduate students, Doug Pleticha and Mike Majeski. The research team has devised a technique for coating metal chalcogenide nanoparticles through cluster beam deposition. In this process, metal atoms are knocked into the gas phase and made to react with hydrogen selenide or hydrogen sulfide through the use of argon gas ions’ magnetically confined electrical discharge. The metal-selenide or metal-sulfide is then condensed into nano-scale clusters that settle on the surface to create the film.
Hanley explained that if all activities are performed at the gaseous deposition stage, the process can be economical and an advanced material with better efficiency can also be produced. The researchers will investigate these novel films’ electrical properties and their response to light.
Hanley believes that the use of various chemicals for nanoparticle-embedded solar films may result in new products with an efficiency two to three-fold better than existing products, which in turn will make solar power more viable.