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The catalysed samples were placed in water-splitting cells with pH 0 and pH 14 electrolyte and exposed to above-gap illumination. For each cell, the semiconductor surface had no noticeable degradation after 300s with a short-circuit current density of approximately 5 × 10–4 A/cm2. This indicates that the catalysed n-GaN surface has sufficient electrochemical stability that it will not corrode during short periods of water splitting. Solar cells Solar cells can be made from a sandwich of n-type silicon, doped with phosphorus, and p-type silicon, doped with boron; the sandwich is protected by a transparent glass cover plate.

Costs can also be reduced by using computer simulations to cut waste during crystal formation. Thin film processing Thin film solar cells use less than 1% of the raw material (silicon or other light absorbers) compared to wafer-based solar cells, leading to a significant price drop per kilowatthour. Many research groups are working on thin film solar cells, but a particularly promising technology is crystalline silicon thin films on glass substrates. This combines the advantages of crystalline silicon as a solar cell material with the cost savings of a thin film.

Silicon processing It takes very large amounts of energy to produce silicon from silica (SiO2). More energyefficient routes to silicon would benefit many industries, not just the solar cell industry. For the time being, carbon (charcoal) and silica are reacted at about 1,700°C. 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide are produced for each tonne of silicon. Solid silica can be directly converted to pure silicon by electrolysis in a molten salt bath at about 800–900°C. This electrolytic silicon is porous and can be turned into a powder with a particle size of a few micrometres.

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