Researchers from Sweden's Umea University have discovered that the precision deployment of carbon nanotubes can dramatically raise the conductivity of electrical devices such as solar photovoltaic cells.

Carbon nanotubes (CNT) are one dimensional nanoscale cylinders comprised of carbon atoms, and possess immense potential in the field of organic or carbon-based electronics due to their remarkably high tensile strength and electron mobility.

Carbon-based nanostructures are already being used as materials in solar cells with increasing frequency, yet their ability to enhance electrical performance has thus far been hampered by limited ability to assemble orderly networks using the materials.

The key breakthrough made by the scientists from has been the precision engineering of complex network architectures using the carbon nanotubes, in which the nano-scale dimensions are highly controlled.

According to Dr David Barbero, head of the research project and assistant professor at the Department of Physics at Umea University, these structured nanoscale networks are capable of increasing efficiency by a staggering magnitude.

“We have found that the resulting nano networks possess exceptional ability to transport charges, up to 100 million times higher than previously measured carbon nanotube random networks produced by conventional methods,” he said.

The new architecture increases the level of interconnection between the nanotubes, thus beefing up the charge transport pathways and increasing efficiency.

In addition to the vast increase in electrical performance, the precision production method pioneered by the Swedish researchers means far fewer nanotubes are required for the creation of the networks, thus dramatically reducing materials costs. According to Barbero, the new method requires at least 100 times fewer nanotubes  to produce efficient charge transportation networks.

Research previously performed by Barbero and his research team have demonstrated that nanoscale networks can be incorporated into flexible solar cells in the form of ultra-thin electrodes.

Their latest research results are expected to significantly further efforts to develop flexible carbon-based solar cells with heightened efficiency and reduced production costs.