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Scientists from Umeå University have discovered a new method of vastly improving the efficiency of solar cells using carbon nanotube structures.Reuters

Next-generation solar cells could be infinitely mosre useful thanks to a newly discovered nanotube structure capable of transporting electrical charges 100 million times higher than previously measured.

The findings of the scientists at Umeå University in Sweden are published in the latest issue of the science journal Advanced Materials.

Most solar cells currently use silicon to absorb light, however inefficiencies in the material have led scientists to develop carbon nanotubes that can be implemented to enhance the light absorption capabilities of current cells.

However, until now the nanotubes have been randomly placed within the solar cells in suboptimal structures as they are difficult to arrange.

Nano networks

Findings from the paper reveal that the scientists from Sweden were able to manipulate the carbon nanotubes using controlled, nano-scale dimensions inside a polymer matrix.

The scientists found that using this method allowed them to rearrange the nanotubes into complex networks that reduced the cost of nanotubes needed.

"Very small amounts of nanotubes can be used - less than 1% compare to before - and still produce very efficient devices," Dr David Barbero, leader of the project and an assistant professor at Umeå University, told IBTimes UK.

"We can reduce the amount of carbon nanotube material used by at least 100 times, meaning much lower materials costs."

Solar cells made of these materials are solution processable, which means they do not require expensive equipment to produce yet still vastly increase the conductivity within the cell.

"We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods," Barbero said.

Barbaro does not yet know when the technology might be used in the production of solar cells but believes that the current pace of the field means it could well be in the "near future".