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21 March 2023
Published online 3 July 2020
A spherical design could give solar cells an advantage over typical flat ones.
A team of engineers and physicists from Saudi Arabia has designed a spherical solar cell that can harness sunlight from different directions without a light-tracking device. The researchers say their technology involves a more simple fabrication technique than previously designed spherical cells and more efficiently converts sunlight to energy. The shape protects the cell’s power-generating efficiency by facilitating heat loss and saves cleaning costs by reducing dust accumulation.
The scientists made a prototype of the cell using monocrystalline silicon. Its power output can be enhanced up to 101 per cent compared to traditional flat cells of the same area by placing light-reflecting materials, such as sand, white paper or aluminum cups, below the cell. This means more power could be generated from a smaller area, making it suitable for use on house and office rooftops, according to electrical engineer Muhammad Mustafa Hussain from King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia.
Hussein and his team are working on developing a simple, automated manufacturing process to scale up the cell’s production.
“Spherical cells deserve more attention from the scientific and technical community, due to their novel architecture and attractive propositions,” says Zhenqiang Ma, an expert on solar cell development at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, US, who was not involved in this research. “Whether they can replace flat cells will be a question for the future, as they have to compete with established technology. However, they can make their mark in specific areas, where sunlight is reflected from the ground, where dust accumulation is a major issue, and where tracking sunlight continuously is a major cost concern.”
El-Atab, N. et al. Nature-inspired spherical silicon solar cell for three-dimensional light harvesting, improved dust and thermal management. MRS Commun. https://doi.org/10.1557/mrc.2020.44 (2020).