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News Link • Energy

Next Solar Cells Could Rely on Nanoflower Power

•, Charles Q. Choi
 Materials scientists have created flowerlike structures from incredibly thin petals of germanium sulfide, a cheap, nontoxic material that is very good at absorbing solar energy and converting it to electricity. Scientists reasoned that flowers of germanium sulfide would be much better than flat panels at capturing light, since the many flower petals would provide far more surface area in the same amount of space.

To create the flowerlike structures, scientists first heat germanium sulfide powder in a furnace until it starts to vaporize. This gas is then blown into a cooler area, where it solidifies as a crystalline sheet only about 30 nanometers (billionths of a meter) wide – about 15 times thicker than a molecule of DNA.

As the researchers grow these layers of germanium sulfide in stacks atop each other, they branch out from one another. The result is a pattern of crystalline petals similar to a carnation's or marigold's – flowerlike structures about 100 microns in diameter, or the width of a human hair.

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