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One atom thick solar cells made possible with new material

Solar cells that are one atom thick have been demonstrated to be functional and to have the potential for mass production by Thomas Müller and colleagues at the Photonics Institute of the Vienna University of Technology according to their March, 9, 2014, report in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

This is a microscope photograph of WSe2-samples, connected to electrodes.
Credit: Vienna University of Technology Usage Restrictions: None

The researchers selected tungsten diselenide as a material of choice because it is easily formed into a variety of shapes and more importantly conducts electricity in the presence of light.

The material is so thin that only one-half of one percent of the light that encounters the tungsten diselenide is absorbed. That light can be converted to electrical energy. The small size of the molecules produces a high rate of efficiency. The high rate of efficiency makes tungsten diselenide a good choice for flexible solar cells.

The expectations are that tungsten diselenide can be used to coat sidewalks, streets, glass in buildings, and a variety of surfaces in a very thin covering that will produce sufficient electricity to make the material cost effective. The crystal structure of tungsten diselenide is expected to provide durability and a long life for surfaces coated with the material.

Other researchers have attempted to make the concept work, but Müller and his team are the first to produce electricity with light and tungsten diselenide.

There are conjectures that this development may win the group a Nobel Prize.

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