Rice University scientists have created a one-step process for producing highly efficient materials that let the maximum amount of sunlight reach a solar cell. The Rice lab of chemist Andrew Barron found a simple way to etch nanoscale spikes into silicon that allows more than 99 percent of sunlight to reach the cells’ active elements, where it can be turned into electricity. Rice University scientists have reduced to one step the process to turn silicon wafers into the black silicon used in solar cells. The advance could cut costs associated with the production of solar cells. Here, a cross section shows inverted pyramids etched into silicon by a chemical mixture over eight hours. (Credit: Barron Group/Rice University) The research by Barron and Rice graduate student and lead author Yen-Tien Lu appears in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Journal of Materials Chemistry A. The more light absorbed by a solar panel’s active elements, the more power it will produce. But the light has to get there. Coatings in current use that protect the active elements let most light pass but reflect some as well. Various strategies have cut reflectance down to about 6 percent, Barron said, but the anti-reflection is
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