GE’s Discovery Advances Solar Energy

Industrial powerhouse General Electric, which has been pushing strongly into the clean energy markets, announced a new research development that could have major implications for new solar photovoltaic research and developments.

GE Global Research has developed what they’re calling an “ideal” carbon nanotube diode that operates at the “theoretical limit,” or best possible performance, as reported in Applied Physics Letters this month. In addition to its impact on photovoltaic research, the development will enable smaller and faster electronic devices with increased functionality. “The discovery of a photovoltaic effect in our nanotube device could lead to exciting breakthroughs in solar cells that make them more efficient and a more viable alternative in the mainstream energy market,” said Margaret Blohm, GE’s advanced technology leader for nanotechnology. “GE’s success in developing the ‘perfect’ carbon nanotube device has not only ushered in a new era in electronics, it has potentially opened new doors in solar energy research.” Despite being some 1000 times smaller than the wavelength of light, the carbon nanotube diodes showed significant power conversion efficiencies owing to the enhanced properties of an ideal diode. Diodes are fundamental semiconductor devices that form the basic building blocks of electronic devices, such as transistors, computer chips, sensors, and light emitting diodes (LEDs). Unlike traditional diodes, GE’s carbon nanotube device has the ability to perform multiple functions – as a diode and two different types of transistors – which should enable it to both emit and detect light. For the online version of the full technical paper (8/15/2005) in Applied Physics Letters, see the following link.