From its inception, the Nanoelectronics Centre (NEC) has been actively involved in research on energy conversion techniques. The research has focused on two fundamental aspects; Photovoltaic devices for converting solar radiation to electricity and light emitting diodes (LEDs) converting electrical energy to optical radiation with high efficiency.
Photovoltaic device research has been conducted on a number of themes. The research ranges from inorganic material based thin film semiconductor solar cells to fourth generation organic-inorganic hybrid thin film devices. The centre is concentrating on utilising the advantages of organic and inorganic material systems in hybrid photovoltaic systems, using its core expertise in nanotechnology.
Carbon nanotubes are utilised in these novel device architectures, as solution processable, flexible electrodes for photo-generated charge collection and transport. Further, inexpensive nanostructured material systems such as zinc oxide are also being explored for charge collection and transport to the electrodes. Laser nanostructured material systems are utilised for harnessing their optical properties to further improve these systems.
The research is aimed at improving the efficiencies of solution processable thin film photovoltaics, while keeping the potential cost low in utilising printing technologies, which are on the verge of becoming a commercial reality, in a commercially relevant approach, applying large area photovoltaic mini-modules.
NEC has also been innovating organic and polymer Light Emitting Diodes (OLEDs and PLEDs) by combining commercially available materials with novel carbon-based technologies, including carbon nanotubes and graphene. The addition of these novel materials to OLEDs/PLEDs can enhance brightness, device efficiency, and lifetime.
In addition, the centre has a number of other research interests in utilisation of nanotechnology for energy conversion. These include research on energy storage such as super-capacitors, hydrogen storage and membrane development for osmosis which leads to enhanced chemical to electrical energy conversion.