Photovoltaics is expected to provide the next generation of safe, secure, sustainable and affordable energy. The challenges now are to reduce costs and improve power-conversion efficiencies. This Focus Issue covers cutting-edge solar cell technologies such as polymer, dye-sensitized and intermediate-band solar cells, as well as advanced light-harvesting techniques based on plasmonics and quantum dots. Also included is an interview with the world's largest solar-cell manufacturer on the future of the photovoltaic industry.



A sunny outlook pp129


Using advanced technologies to improve photoinduced charge transfer and light harvesting is essential in the development of high-efficiency solar cells. Once the problem of energy storage has been overcome, solar energy is sure to become the world's major source of sustainable energy.



Harnessing plasmonics for solar cells pp130 - 132

Martin A. Green & Supriya Pillai


Plasmons are free-electron oscillations in a conductor that allow light to be manipulated at the nanoscale. The ability of plasmons to guide and confine light on subwavelength scales is opening up new design possibilities for solar cells.

Colloidal quantum dot solar cells pp133 - 135

Edward H. Sargent


Solar cells based on solution-processed semiconductor nanoparticles — colloidal quantum dots — have seen rapid advances in recent years. By offering full-spectrum solar harvesting, these cells are poised to address the urgent need for low-cost, high-efficiency photovoltaics.



Towards highly efficient solar cells  pp136 - 137

Interview with Stuart Wenham


Suntech Power is the world's largest producer of solar panels and has delivered more than 20 million photovoltaic panels to more than 80 countries around the globe. Nature Photonics spoke with Stuart Wenham, chief technology officer at Suntech Power, to find out more about its activities and visions.


Progress Article

Understanding intermediate-band solar cells  pp146 - 152

Antonio Luque, Antonio Martí & Colin Stanley


The intermediate-band solar cell is designed to provide a large photogenerated current while maintaining a high output voltage. Nanostructured materials and certain alloys have been employed in the practical implementation of these devices. This Progress Article reviews the range of different approaches and discusses how to resolve the remaining technical issues.


Review Articles

Polymer solar cells pp153 - 161

Gang Li, Rui Zhu & Yang Yang


This Review summarizes recent progress in the development of polymer solar cells. It covers the scientific origins and basic properties of polymer solar cell technology, material requirements and device operation mechanisms, while also providing a synopsis of major achievements in the field over the past few years. Potential future developments and the applications of this technology are also briefly discussed.

The renaissance of dye-sensitized solar cells pp133 - 135

Brian E. Hardin, Henry J. Snaith & Michael D. McGehee


This Review focuses on several recent promising innovations in the field of dye-sensitized solar cells. The key strategies for device engineering and dye design are illustrated, together with explanations as to how these factors affect the robustness and power conversion efficiency of the final device. The outlook towards the commercialization of dye-sensitized solar cells is also described.

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