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A Buddhist Approach to Solar Cell Design

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The shape of a centuries-old Buddhist singing bowl has inspired Dr Niraj Lal of The Australian National University to rethink the design of solar cells to maximise their efficiency.

Normally used in meditation, music and relaxation, Buddhist singing bowls make a continuous harmonic ringing sound when the rim of the metal bowl is vibrated with a wooden or other utensil.

During his PhD at the University of Cambridge, Niraj found that small nano-sized versions of Buddhist singing bowls resonate with light in the same way as they do with sound. He has now applied this shape to solar cells to increase their ability to capture more light and convert it into electricity.

“Current standard solar panels lose a large amount of light energy as it hits the surface, making the panels’ generation of electricity inefficient,” Niraj says. “But if the cells are singing bowl-shaped, then the light bounces around inside the cell for longer.”

During his PhD, Niraj discovered that his “nanobowls” manipulated light by creating a “plasmonic” resonance that quadrupled the laboratory solar cell’s efficiency compared with a flat solar cell.

Niraj is now applying his discovery to tandem solar cells: a technology that has previously been limited to aerospace applications.

In research published in the November issue of IEEE Journal of Photonics, Niraj and his...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.