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McMaster prof wants to turn solar panels “the darkest of blacks”


McMaster University’s Ray LaPierre. Photo Monique Beech.

March 3, 2016 – McMaster University professor Ray LaPierre envisions a world where sunny skies turn solar panels the darkest of blacks, and his vision has garnered him a Strategic Partnership Grant from Canada’s Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

Central to LaPierre’s research program are nanowires, structures whose diameter is 1/1000th the size of a human hair.

“The central challenge in photovoltaic (solar cell) design is to bridge the gap between efficiency and cost. The nanowires developed in my lab have much higher efficiencies due to their superior light absorption and their ability to convert as much as 30% to 40% more solar energy to electricity,” says LaPierre.

Why black solar panels? The bluish solar panels we typically see convert only 15% to 20% of solar energy into electricity. Ideally, those panels should be black, absorbing as much sunlight as possible, rather than losing as much as 30% to reflection.

The nanowire PV project was awarded $420,000 and partners with solar technology company Morgan Solar.

PHOTO: McMaster University’s professor Ray LaPierre, chair of the Department of Engineering Physics, garnered a Strategic Partnership Grant from NSERC to develop more efficient solar cells. Photo Monique Beech.