A multilayer lanthanum vanadate and strontium titanate structure with four vanadate planes
(Courtesy: Satoshi Okamoto).

Physicists propose ‘wireless’ solar cells

Feb 18, 2013

A new type of solar cell that relies on a surprising property of certain insulators has been proposed by physicists in Austria, the US and Germany. The design relies on the discovery a decade ago that the interface between two insulating oxides can become metallic, which could eliminate the need for metal wires in solar cells. If the cost of producing layered structures of the oxides can be reduced, the research could lead to a new type of highly efficient photovoltaic cell.

In 2004 Harold Hwang and Akira Ohtomo made the remarkable discovery that when a layer of the insulator lanthanum titanate was grown on the insulator strontium titanate, a 2D electron gas forms at the interface causing it to become metallic. The phenomenon is caused by the accumulation of charge at the edge of a polar oxide as it meets a non-polar oxide. It has since been seen in other oxide interfaces and has been investigated by multiple research groups trying to develop new and improved electronic devices.

Read more: Physicists propose 'wireless' solar cells – physicsworld.com.

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