Environment Technologies
  • Environment Technologies

Light-Trapping Layer for Greater Solar Panel Efficiency

PI: Kam Zhi Ming, Joel Li Bingrui, Lin Fen, Thomas Gascou


As environmental concerns mount, the world is turning to renewable energy sources for its power needs. The world’s total renewable-based power capacity is expected to grow by 50% between 2019 and 2024 with solar photovoltaic technology accounting for some 60% of the rise.  One industry estimate places the CAGR of the global solar energy market at 14.9% from 2019 to 2023, by which time it could be well worth over US$280 billion.  

While the sun offers the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy source available, current solar photovoltaic technology is limited in its conversion efficiency. This means that a large portion of the sunlight that reaches a solar panel is reflected away and lost, instead of being captured and converted into usable electricity. Multiple factors in the solar photovoltaic cell design contribute this to limitation, one of which is surface reflectance. As surface reflectance has a major influence on the short-circuit current (Jsc) of a solar panel, lowering it can significantly improve light absorption, conversion efficiency, and therefore cost competitiveness, of solar panels.  


This invention is a simple and low-cost surface method that improves conversion efficiency by reducing the amount of sunlight that is reflected away. It is an additional light-trapping layer that works with existing reflection-reducing mechanisms and can be introduced during the solar cell manufacturing process or applied onto completed solar panels. 

The light-trapping layer is applied and followed by a low-temperature curing process and further hydrolysis to create a highly surface-conformal layer with light-trapping properties. Both processes do not require the high-vacuum or high temperatures typically needed for material deposition in solar cell manufacturing. A seed layer to ensure surface conformity is also unnecessary. The materials are relatively simple, non-hazardous and widely available while the entire process is inexpensive in terms of energy consumption, equipment and material costs. Further, when incorporated into the solar cell manufacturing process, this invention helps thicken the underlying anti-reflective coating, presenting a new opportunity to reduce material usage and shorten the process time needed to deposit the anti-reflective coating on the panel.

Document Status


Technology Readiness Level (TRL)


Proof-of-concept with needs validated

Applications & Advantages

  • 01

    Easily incorporated into the solar cell manufacturing process; improves conversion efficiency while potentially reducing material usage and process time of existing anti-reflective coatings.

  • 02

    Possible to be applied directly onto completed solar panels for immediate improvements to conversion efficiency.

  • 03

    Process is simple and does not require specialized equipment or large amounts of energy.

  • 04

    Materials are inexpensive, non-hazardous and widely available.