Solar Cell - Materials

Materials

Various materials display varying efficiencies and have varying costs. Materials for efficient solar cells must have characteristics matched to the spectrum of available light. Some cells are designed to efficiently convert wavelengths of solar light that reach the Earth surface. However, some solar cells are optimized for light absorption beyond Earth's atmosphere as well. Light absorbing materials can often be used in multiple physical configurations to take advantage of different light absorption and charge separation mechanisms.

Materials presently used for photovoltaic solar cells include monocrystalline silicon, polycrystalline silicon, amorphous silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium selenide/sulfide.

Many currently available solar cells are made from bulk materials that are cut into wafers between 180 to 240 micrometers thick that are then processed like other semiconductors.

Other materials are made as thin-films layers, organic dyes, and organic polymers that are deposited on supporting substrates. A third group are made from nanocrystals and used as quantum dots (electron-confined nanoparticles). Silicon remains the only material that is well-researched in both bulk and thin-film forms.

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