Paper outlines how solar cells’ efficiency could be improved

  • May 31, 2011
Paper outlines how solar cells’ efficiency could be improved

Niraj Lal co-authors a paper on solar cell efficiency.

Experimental solar cells which could pave the way to more efficient solar panels have been created by a team of researchers, including Gates scholar Niraj Lal [2008].

In a paper for Optics Express, one of the premier journals of the Optics Society of America, Niraj and his co-authors described how solar panels can be made more efficient by making them on tiny nano-sized metallic Buddhist singing bowls instead of on flat metal.

The paper “Enhancing solar cells with localized plasmon in nanovoids” was published this month. Niraj says the metal bowls have resonances known as “plasmonic resonances” that concentrate light on the nanoscale, increasing the absorption and efficiencies of solar cell materials placed inside them.

These organic plasmonic solar cells, that Niraj describes in the paper as “orgasmonic when showing enhancement”, demonstrate a four-fold enhancement of efficiency over identically prepared flat cells on the same substrate.

He says: “Whilst these experimental solar cells aren’t going to be on roofs any time soon, the paper demonstrates novel physical concepts that help pave the way forward for future generations of solar panels.”

Niraj is studying for a PhD in Physics at the Nanophotonics Centre with Professor Jeremy Baumberg FRS. He is looking at “Nanovoid Plasmon-Enhanced Photovoltaics” which involves using new physics to make solar cells more efficient.

He says: “I think one of the biggest challenges of our generation is to understand our planet’s resources and develop ways to live with them sustainably.”

Picture credit: Pixomar and

Latest News

Tracing the origins of our political beliefs

What makes some people more vulnerable to extremism than others? How do we build cognitive resilience against extreme ideologies? And how does the brain react to misinformation on social media? These are some of the key political questions that political neuroscientist Leor Zmigrod [2016] is exploring, putting the science into our understanding of radicalisation.   Leor […]

A leading woman in STEAM

A Gates Cambridge Scholar has been selected as one of the 75 leading women in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics in India. Yama Dixit will feature in the second edition of the book She Is, published by the Red Dot Foundation in partnership with the Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India to mark 75 […]

Tackling the obesity epidemic in Africa

When she left school, Paula-Peace James-Okoro [2022] intended to become a medical doctor, but after starting a degree in Biochemistry she discovered a passion for the subject and for using it to address one of the major health challenges facing Africa – obesity. She says: “In Africa, the rates of metabolic diseases, like obesity and […]

Triple win for Bill Gates Sr. Prize

For the first time three Gates Cambridge Scholars are sharing this year’s Bill Gates Sr. Prize in recognition of their outstanding research and social leadership. Kim van Daalen, Reetika Subramanian and Cynthia Okoye have been selected for the prize which was established by the Gates Cambridge Trustees in June 2012 in recognition of the late […]