BP Teams with Caltech to Explore
Game-Changing Solar Technology
Jun 27, 2006 - Press Release - BP Solar
BP and The California Institute of Technology have
teamed up in a multi-million dollar research program
that could open the door to a radical new way of producing
solar cells, making the cost of solar electricity
more competitive and increasing current efficiency
The program was announced today at the Photovoltaics
Summit 2006 in San Diego. For an initial five year
period, BP and Caltech will explore a concept based
on growing silicon by creating arrays of nanorods
rather than by casting ingots and cutting wafers,
which is the current conventional way of producing
solar cells. Nanorods are small cylinders of silicon
that can be 100 times smaller than a human hair and
would be tightly packed in an array like bristles
in a brush.
A solar cell based on an array of nanorods
will be able to efficiently absorb light along the
length of the rods by collecting the electricity generated
by sunlight more efficiently than a conventional solar
cell. The contract has clear links with BP’s long
term technology strategy and builds on its proven
strategy of partnering with some of the world’s leading
universities on key technology challenges. Caltech
is one of many prestigious universities BP is working
with globally on key technology projects. The program
is also aligned with the launch of BP Alternative
Energy in November 2005 - a new business focused on
developing low carbon options for the power industry
which also includes the BP Solar business.
BP Solar president, commented: “This program represents
a significant commitment by BP to the long term potential
of solar energy and compliments our existing technology
programs with the promise for major breakthroughs
in solar technology. Nanorod technology offers enormous
promise however, like any new technology, challenges
remain to make it commercially viable at scale."
Caltech solar nanorod program will be directed by
two prominent scientists at Caltech, Dr. Nate Lewis
and Dr. Harry Atwater. Dr. Lewis is the George L.
Argyros Professor of Chemistry and is an expert in
the areas of surface chemistry and photochemistry.
Dr. Atwater is the Howard Hughes Professor and Professor
of Applied Physics and Materials Science and is an
expert in electronic and optoelectronic materials
and devices. In addition, eight postdoctoral researchers
and graduate students will work on the program.
group will investigate uses of nanotechnology to create
designer solar cell materials, from nanorods to nanowires,
in order to change the conventional paradigm for solar
cell materials. "Nanotechnology can offer new and
unique ways to make solar cell materials that are
cheaper yet could perform nearly as well as conventional
materials," said Dr. Lewis.
Atwater's group will investigate
approaches to create silicon-based single junction
and compound semiconductor multijunction nanorod solar
cells, using vapor deposition synthesis methods that
are scaleable to very large areas. According to Dr.
Atwater, "Using nanorods as the active elements opens
up very new approaches to design and low-cost fabrication
of high performance solar cells."
activities are the exploration for and production
of crude oil and natural gas; oil refining, marketing,
supply and transportation; and manufacturing and marketing
of petrochemicals. BP has a growing activity in gas,
power and alternative energy businesses. It is the
world’s second largest oil and gas company producing
around three per cent of the oil and gas consumed
in the world through operations in 100 countries and
more than 96,000 employees.
BP Solar is a key business
within BP Alternative Energy and a global company
with over 2200 employees focused on harnessing the
sun's energy to produce solar electricity. This includes
the design, manufacture and marketing of quality solar
electric systems for a wide range of applications
in the residential, commercial and industrial sectors.
With over 30 years of experience and installations
in over 160 countries, BP Solar is one of the world's
largest solar companies and has manufacturing facilities
in the U.S., Spain, India and Australia.