Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"Black Silicon"

Almost ten years ago, graduate students in the laboratory of physics professor Eric Mazur at Harvard University stumbled across a new way of making silicon more responsive: they found that if they blasted the surface of a silicon wafer with an incredibly brief pulse of laser energy in the presence of gaseous sulfur and other dopants, the resulting material—which they called “black silicon”—was much better at absorbing photons and releasing electrons.

These properties mean that SiOnyx is in a position to pioneer new types of solar cells that could capture the sun’s energy across a broader spectrum, achieving greater efficiency than today’s photovoltaic cells.

“Harnessing nuclear fusion energy arriving from Sol—solar energy at 1366 Watts per square meter—is the most promising technology for meeting accelerating world needs for cheap and clean energy,” says Polaris’s Metcalfe. Black siliicon “promises to dramatically increase the photo-response (Amps per Watt) of silicon, and not just in the visible spectrum, but also in the infrared, where silicon currently misses half of Sol’s energy. Delivering on that promise is very exciting.”

But that’s the “long shot” application for the material, Metcalfe acknowledges. Closer in is the possibility of major sensitivity improvements in imaging applications such as night vision, surveillance, digital cameras, and medical imaging. Saylor says that the company has negotiated strategic partnerships with two “industry leaders,” and though he won’t name names, he says one of them is active in the medical imaging area.
via Xconomy via Earth2Tech

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