Nanosys Co-Founder Reports Solar Breakthrough

March 31, 2002 by Jeff Shepard

Nanosys Inc. (Palo Alto, CA) announced that a team led by Dr. Paul Alivisatos, Nanosys co-founder and professor of chemistry at the University of California, Berkeley (Berkeley, CA), has discovered a nanomaterial for the efficient production of solar energy, which can be produced using inexpensive manufacturing methods and that will capture the benefits of solar energy in a way that is more cost effective than traditional technologies.

"Traditional silicon-based photovoltaic elements are expensive to manufacture in large volumes, requiring extremely high temperature, high vacuum and numerous lithographic steps," stated Alivisatos. "That's why we chose to pursue the hybrid nanocomposite approach, incorporating inorganic nanorods into organic semiconductor films. The nanorod/polymer hybrid elements can be mass-produced under ambient conditions without any of these complicated and expensive steps. By growing nanorods with a specific diameter, we can also precisely control the band gap of the nanocomposite, adjusting it for optimal absorption of ambient light; that's not possible to do with traditional semiconducting materials."

"Until now, the high costs of photovoltaic-element manufacturing made solar energy too expensive to compete with commodity electricity available from utilities," commented Larry Bock, president and CEO of Nanosys. "The discovery by Dr. Alivisatos will create solar cells that could compete with the highest-efficiency semiconductor cells, but be fabricated using the techniques used to make photographic film, which is produced at low costs and in volumes of literally miles of material per day. This breakthrough is especially important in light of last week's passage of the US Senate bill requiring that 10 percent of US electricity be derived from renewable sources by 2020."