Nanowires and Methods of Making and Using

Nanotechnologies : Physical Science Apps

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Inventors

  • Brian Korgel, Ph.D. , Chemical Engineering
  • Chet Steinhagen , Chemical Engineering

Background/unmet need

Thin-film copper indium selenide and related materials can be useful as light-adsorbing materials in a variety of applications, most notably in photovoltaic devices. Thin films of these types of material are limited in two main ways: their efficiency in solar energy conversion and the expense of film creation. Nanoparticle or nanowire synthesis and deposition could offer a much less expensive route than currently used processes and offers the added benefit of not using toxic materials during the manufacturing process. Additionally, nanowires could be preferable over nanoparticles due to a reduction in grain boundaries.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a novel synthetic route for copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) nanorods and nanowires. CIGS nanoparticles are currently being tested in photovoltaic devices, and using nanowires could offer improvement upon that approach.

Benefits/Advantages

    A nano-approach is much less expensive than the evaporation/deposition method currently used in thin-film production. The cost benefits, along with the removal of any toxic chemicals used during production, make this an advantageous procedure for manufacturing.

Features

    Lower cost of production as compared to thin films

Market potential/applications

The European Photovoltaic Industry Association (EPIA) predicts that thin-film approaches will encompass 20% of the solar market in 2010 (4GW) and 25% in 2013 (9GW). Thin-film solar cells were less than 5% of the market (90MW) in 2005. As of 2008, The US was only 6% of the global market, while European countries took the lead. Spain was about 45% of the market, and Germany was 27%. The EPIA noted that the Spanish government instituted a cap, so Germany is expected to be the leading European use of solar energy in the coming years. (SOURCE: EPIA, "Global Market Outlook for Photovoltaics Until 2013." April 2009)

Development Stage

Lab/bench prototype

IP Status