Solar cells may soon be receiving a big boost to their efficiency thanks to a newly created process whereby the cell surface is coated with extremely small nanoscale structures. These nanoscale structures work to almost completely eliminate the reflection losses of solar radiation, thereby greatly boosting efficiency. Because of the very low reflectivity of the new nanostructured black silicon coating, more of the Sun’s radiation becomes available for exploitation.

The new work is being done on crystalline silicon solar cells, as those are currently the primary type of solar cells on the market.

“The advantages of silicon include the long-term stability, sufficiency, low cost and non-toxicity of the element, as well as the advanced production technology. Another benefit of these solar cells is their relatively high efficiency and technological compatibility with the manufacturing technologies currently used by the semiconductor industry,” Assistant Professor Hele Savin, at Aalto University, explains.

According to the researchers, one of the primary motivations for their work is the fact that the major manufacturing technology players are major corporations in the industry. This makes it possible for immediate and large-scale experimentation with new ideas, such as the new nano structured black silicon coating.

The researchers at Aalto University are also currently working to develop solar cells that can function as well as conventional solar cells, but that can be made from impure silicon rather than the considerably more expensive purified silica.

Savin notes: “We’ve already succeeded rather well in this respect. Certain promising techniques are currently being tested in production by a leading European solar cell manufacturer.”