Quantum Dots for Energy Efficiency
Rising energy demands worldwide are calling for both increased energy supply and improved efficiency in usage. Researchers within the Semiconductor Physics & Nanostructures Research Group at Lancaster University are addressing these two areas though the atomic-scale engineering of materials.
The group headed by Professor Tony Krier works to create specialised materials with highly specific properties. chamber. Using a high vacuum growth reactor, layers of atoms are deposited in a precise sequence. The atoms used in this process and the order in which they are introduced result in the formation of so-called 'Quantum Dots', three-dimensional clusters of atoms which have very small dimensions and unique physical properties. The specificity of the process allows for control over the optical and electrical properties.
Solar Cell Efficiency
The work done by Professor Krier and his team is being applied to improve the efficiency of solar cells by implementing novel semiconductor material containing Quantum Dots. By introducing several layers of Quantum Dots into the active region of a solar cell, the spectral response of the cell can be extended so that more of the sun's radiation is absorbed and converted into electricity.
Efficiency in Communication Lasers
Quantum Dot nanomaterials can also offer opportunities for reducing energy consumption. The lasers used in fibre-optic communications currently need to be held at a constant temperature to maintain their operation. The cooling is provided by a thermo-electric element which uses electricity. Researchers in the Semiconductor Physics & Nanostructures Research Group are working to create a laser containing Quantum Dots within the active region that will have significantly reduced temperature sensitivity, removing the need for energy-intensive thermo-electric cooling.