27 January 2011

Wake Forest University’s Light Pipes

Researchers at the Wake Forest University in North Carolina made a breakthrough by developing organic solar cells with a layer of optical fiber bristles that doubles the performance of the cells in tests. The prototype solar cell has been developed by David Carroll, who is the chief scientist at a spin-off company called FiberCell. The problem with standard flat panels is that some sunlight is lost through reflection. To reduce this effect, the research team took a dramatic approach by stamping optical fibers onto a polymer substrate that forms the foundation of the cell. These fibers, dubbed the “Light Pipes,” are surrounded by thin organic solar cells applied using a dip-coating process, and a light absorbing dye or polymer is also sprayed onto the surface. Light can enter the tip of a fiber at any angle. Photons then bounce around inside the fiber until they are absorbed by the surrounding organic cell.

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