The efficiency of solar cells depends on their purity, but ultrahigh-purity silicon is expensive and difficult to produce. Previous research efforts have concentrated on ways to decrease contaminants in solar cells. Now scientists at the synchrotron have discovered an alternative: "lasso" the contaminants into one area, rather than trying to get rid of them altogether.
This process, dubbed "defect engineering", is much easier and much more cost-effective than trying to produce ultrapure silicon. These studies show that solar cells with defects confined to smaller areas outperform up to 4 times solar cells with the same total number of defects spread over a larger area.
Synchrotron x-ray beam strikes the surface of a solar cell and produces fluoresence which is used to determine the type and location of impurities (Artist’s rendition).