SAN DIEGO, June 27 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- BP and The California
Institute of Technology have teamed up in a multi-million dollar research
program that could open the door to a radical new way of producing solar
cells, making the cost of solar electricity more competitive and increasing
current efficiency levels.
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The program was announced today at the Photovoltaics Summit 2006 in San
Diego. For an initial five year period, BP and Caltech will explore a
concept based on growing silicon by creating arrays of nanorods rather than
by casting ingots and cutting wafers, which is the current conventional way
of producing solar cells. Nanorods are small cylinders of silicon that can
be 100 times smaller than a human hair and would be tightly packed in an
array like bristles in a brush.
A solar cell based on an array of nanorods will be able to efficiently
absorb light along the length of the rods by collecting the electricity
generated by sunlight more efficiently than a conventional solar cell.
The contract has clear links with BP's long term technology strategy
and builds on its proven strategy of partnering with some of the world's
leading universities on key technology challenges. Caltech is one of many
prestigious universities BP is working with globally on key technology
projects. The program is also aligned with the launch of BP Alternative
Energy in November 2005 -- a new business focused on developing low carbon
options for the power industry which also includes the BP Solar business.
Lee Edwards, BP Solar president, commented: "This program represents a
significant commitment by BP to the long term potential of solar energy and
compliments our existing technology programs with the promise for major
breakthroughs in solar technology. Nanorod technology offers enormous
promise however, like any new technology, challenges remain to make it
commercially viable at scale."
The Caltech solar nanorod program will be directed by two prominent
scientists at Caltech, Dr. Nate Lewis and Dr. Harry Atwater. Dr. Lewis is
the George L. Argyros Professor of Chemistry and is an expert in the areas
of surface chemistry and photochemistry. Dr. Atwater is the Howard Hughes
Professor and Professor of Applied Physics and Materials Science and is an
expert in electronic and optoelectronic materials and devices. In addition,
eight postdoctoral researchers and graduate students will work on the
Lewis' group will investigate uses of nanotechnology to create designer
solar cell materials, from nanorods to nanowires, in order to change the
conventional paradigm for solar cell materials. "Nanotechnology can offer
new and unique ways to make solar cell materials that are cheaper yet could
perform nearly as well as conventional materials," said Dr. Lewis.
Atwater's group will investigate approaches to create silicon-based
single junction and compound semiconductor multijunction nanorod solar
cells, using vapor deposition synthesis methods that are scaleable to very
large areas. According to Dr. Atwater, "Using nanorods as the active
elements opens up very new approaches to design and low-cost fabrication of
high performance solar cells."
BP's main activities are the exploration for and production of crude
oil and natural gas; oil refining, marketing, supply and transportation;
and manufacturing and marketing of petrochemicals. BP has a growing
activity in gas, power and alternative energy businesses. It is the world's
second largest oil and gas company producing around three per cent of the
oil and gas consumed in the world through operations in 100 countries and
more than 96,000 employees. To learn more, visit www.bp.com.
BP Solar is a key business within BP Alternative Energy and a global
company with over 2200 employees focused on harnessing the sun's energy to
produce solar electricity. This includes the design, manufacture and
marketing of quality solar electric systems for a wide range of
applications in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors. With
over 30 years of experience and installations in over 160 countries, BP
Solar is one of the world's largest solar companies and has manufacturing
facilities in the U.S., Spain, India and Australia. To learn more, visit