In the cave
Working towards more efficient photovoltaic panels

The aim of the research presented here in the images from the Institute of Light and Matter (ILM) is to eventually produce a new generation of solar photovoltaic panels. This work is based on the idea of increasing the performance of photovoltaic cells by exploiting the ultraviolets of the light spectrum to a greater extent.

A laser irradiates rare earth oxides to generate a luminous plasma (video in slow motion and duplicated four times) which deposits a thin layer of small particles on a glass sheet. The aim is to do the same to photovoltaic panels to enhance the production thereof. Credits: © Institute of Light and Matter (ILM), Antonio Pereira

In their experiment, the researchers began by creating a "target" material shaped like an aspirin and made up of rare earth oxides. This material becomes luminous when excited by ultraviolet light. A technique called pulsed laser deposition is used in which a laser repeatedly hits this target thus generating a plasma made up of small particles (ions, molecules and electrons). A thin layer of this plasma is deposited on the nearby substrate. In this experiment, the substrate is made of glass but in the field it could easily be replaced by photovoltaic panels.

Thanks to the plasma, these panels would more effectively use daylight thus exploiting the energy of solar photons more effectively… and increasing the quantity of electricity generated.

As these images show, nothing would be possible in this case without lasers!

Thanks to Antonio Pereira for his contribution.

Microscopic view of a thin layer of tin oxide spread onto a substrate using pulsed laser deposition. Credits: © Institute of Light and Matter (ILM), Antonio Pereira (in the framework of a collaborative project with the LP3 and the CINaM – Marseille).

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