Tiny tubes increase solar power

Author: John Monczunski

Incredibly tiny carbon tubes might one day lower the cost and increase the feasibility of solar power, according to some promising preliminary research by a Notre Dame chemist. Actually, “incredibly tiny” may be an overstatement since it would take more than 25 million carbon nanotubes lined up side-by-side to equal an inch. The unusual tiny chemical structures, however, have some curious electronic properties that seem to enhance the efficiency of photovoltaic cells.

At last September’s American Chemical Society symposium on the next generation of solar energy production, Professor Prashant Kamat reported that he and his colleagues found that when they inserted carbon nanotubes into the structure of solar cells composed of cadmium sulfide, zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, they were able to double the cell’s efficiency in converting light into energy.