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Silver Nano-Trees Developed to Increase Solar Cell Efficiency

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March 29, 2012 - 1:09pm

Silver paste is used as a highly efficient conductor of electricity in the vast majority of crystalline silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the most prevalent form of solar cell used to generate solar power. Solar cell manufacture uses as much as 12 percent of the global silver supply on an annual basis.

 

Solar cell manufacture has grown substantially recently. In addition, competition among makers of this clean energy product has increased notably over the last few years, largely due to a remarkable expansion in China, where over 700 companies now make solar energy panels.

 

Solar energy has also been extensively promoted by government subsidies in the United States and elsewhere that encourage the use of cleaner and cheaper energy alternatives to increasingly costly fossil fuels. In addition, government programs, such as President Obama’s SunShot Initiative, have been aimed at developing highly efficient and cost effective solar energy technologies.

 

Research Into Using Silver Nano-Trees to Generate Solar Power

 

Given the widespread and growing interest in solar power, considerable research has gone into improving the efficiency of silver containing solar cells in terms of the amount of electricity they produce. The rising cost of silver has also prompted investigation into ways that the precious white metal could be better utilized.

 

A notable enhancement in this regard was recently announced by a research team from the University of California’s Davis campus that involves using tiny silver filaments to mimic the fractal growth pattern of trees. Other researchers at Stanford University and MIT have also been exploring tree like structures for use in solar power generation.

 

The idea behind the UC Davis research, which was reportedly funded by an initial grant of $100,000, is that the naturally occurring leaf and branch structure of trees gives them the ability to collect energy from the sun using a larger surface area compared to the size of the trunk that they are supported with.

 

In essence, the diminishing scale and fractal-like nature of a tree’s structure, which moves from large trunks to increasingly smaller branches to even smaller leaves, yields a greater overall exposure to the sun.

 

UC Davis Team Uses an Electrochemical Process to Grow Silver Nano-Trees

 

The researchers at UC Davis employed an electrochemical process to manufacture the fractal silver nano-trees that they found effective in generating solar power. This manufacturing process is reportedly more cost effective than traditional mechanical fabrication methods.

 

The silver nano-trees have tiny branches that are only 0.02 times a hair’s breadth in size, and they are produced by electrochemically layering silver nitrate onto a layer of fluorine doped tin oxide.

 

Once the silver nano-tree is formed, it is then coated with plastic. The plastic absorbs light from the sun and transmits the resulting electrical charge to the highly conductive base layer of silver nano-trees, thereby resulting in power generation.

 

Dr. Jeffrey Lewis

 

www.silver-coin-investor.com

 

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About Dr. Jeffrey Lewis / Commentary Author

"In addition to running a busy medical practice, Dr. Jeffrey Lewis is the editor and publisher of Silver-Coin-Investor.com, where he provides practical information for precious metals investors".

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