Sunny California

An award of $1.5 million over three years from the National Science Foundation could help an interdisciplinary team from UC Davis and UC Santa Cruz exploit nanoparticles of germanium, silicon and other materials to develop photovoltaic solar cells that are far more efficient than current devices. Conventional solar cells all operate on the same principle of "one photon in, one electron out", which theoretically caps efficiency a little over 30%. But, by constructing solar cells from nanoparticles, the UC researchers hope generate several electrons for each incident photon and so raise maximum efficiency to between 42 and 65 percent. The interdisciplinary nature of the team was crucial to getting the proposal funded as NSF asked for a collaborative effort between materials sciences, chemistry and mathematical sciences.