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Growing nanowires on solar cells increases performance

A research team at the University of Illinois has found a way to integrate compound semiconductor nanowires on silicon wafers, potentially enhancing performance and reducing the cost of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells.

By Kari Williamson

The team lead by Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Xiuling Li, had to overcome the challenge of integrating the III-V group semiconductor material with silicon.

“The biggest challenge has been that III-V semiconductors and silicon do not have the same lattice constants. They cannot be stacked on top of each other in a straightforward way without generating dislocations, which can be thought of as atomic cell cracks,” Li explains.

Normally, semiconductors are placed as a thin film on top of wafers, but the Illinois team managed to grow tiny vertical strands of III-V indium gallium arsenide semiconductor from the silicon wafer.

The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters.

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