ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Solar Breakthrough: Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cells Convert 80% of Sunlight to Electricity

Updated on March 21, 2017

A Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell

What A Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell Looks Like.  The Tiny Plastic Tubes Contain Silicon Containing Wires That Absorb Sunlight.
What A Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell Looks Like. The Tiny Plastic Tubes Contain Silicon Containing Wires That Absorb Sunlight. | Source

Silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) solar cell technology has gradually become more efficient over the decades since it first started being used in common commercial applications during the 1970s. However, traditional methods of constructing silicon-based solar cells on flat surfaces have only experienced slow and gradual sunlight to electricity conversion rate improvements (currently averaging about 15% conversion efficiency rates), and may be reaching their maximum efficiency levels. While scientists have successfully made traditional flat surface solar cells more efficient by introducing rare Earth metals, such as gallium, these metals are expensive and their use in commercial applications appears limited. A new approach is needed to bring solar cell efficiency to the next level higher.

The Surface of a Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell

The Surface of a Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell Looks Like a Carpet
The Surface of a Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cell Looks Like a Carpet | Source

A New Approach: Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cells

A scientific research team at the California Institute of Technology (CalTech) Resnick Institute, in Pasadena, California have taken a new approach to designing solar cells by using a silicon wire-array to cover between two (2%) and ten (10%) percent of a cell’s surface area in an array of wires. The extremely thin plastic coatedsilicon wires capture sunlight much more efficiently than flat surfaces coated with silicon. This is due to the way sunlight disperses as it hits a surface. On a flat surface solar cell, the sunlight that is not absorbed is reflected back out into space. On a silicon wire-array covered solar cell, some of the sunlight is initially absorbed by the silicon wires on the array, while the reflected sunlight disperses in many directions and much of it is absorbed by other silicon wires on the array. The silicon-wire arrays absorb approximately eighty-five (85%) percent of total sunlight photons that can be collected. The silicon-wire arrays convert between ninety (90%) and one-hundred (100%) percent of the collected photons into electrons that can be used to create electricity. This translates to a total sunlight absorption to electricity conversion rate solar breakthrough of approximately 80%, which is more than five times more efficient than current flat surface solar cells.

Future Commercial Applications For Silicon Wire-Array Solar Cells

The silicon-wire array solar cells are not only extremely efficient, but they are also much cheaper to produce than traditional flat surface solar cells because they use considerably less silicon in the wire than the amount of silicon used on flat surface cells, which is usually the most expensive raw material that is used in solar cell manufacturing. In addition to needing much less silicon, silicon-wire array solar cells have the added benefit of being flexible, which means than can be manufactured using lower cost manufacturing processes and can be utilized in some building applications that traditional flat surface solar cells cannot be used in.

Due to high sunlight absorption to electricity conversion rate and low manufacturing costs, it is very likely that at some point in the future, silicon-wire array solar cells will replace traditional flat surface solar cells as the dominant type of commercially installed solar cells. This will likely lead to a boom in solar installations, as the economics of solar produced electricity will improve dramatically when 80% efficient solar cells are available for a fraction of the price of what far less efficient solar cells currently sell for. But before silicon-wire array solar cells can be mass produced and installed in commercial applications, a lot of research and development needs to take place to scale these cells up to sizes that make sense in commercial applications.

The scientific team at CalTech that conducted the silicon-wire array solar cells research includes Harry Atwater, Director of Caltech’s Resnick Intitute, Nathan Lewis, professor of Chemistry at Caltech, and Michael Kelzenberg, who was a graduate student.

Solar Power Revolution - Here Comes The Sun -- Documentary


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)