An impurity detection probe that can withstand temperatures as hot as molten lava could lead to more efficient solar cells, its creators have claimed.

Designed to detect low levels of impurity in molten silicon, which is used in solar cells, the high-temperature probe was developed by researchers at the University of Bristol.

“Traditional lab analysis is slow, costly, and lacks real-time data,” a Bristol announcement said.

The research team set out to tackle that issue and provide real-time impurity detection with a very low detection limit. “Our study introduced an innovative high-temperature probe based on mechanical stirring, ensuring a clean, representative and stable surface for real-time chemical analysis of molten silicon,” said Dr Younes Belrhiti, lead author of the work.

The team designed and tested rotary blades for generating flow in the molten silicon. They then developed the associated probe, which uses laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy (LIBS) for measurement and analysis.

“The developed probe offers a faster and more cost-effective way to detect impurities in molten materials used for solar cells, thanks to innovative mechanical stirring and spectroscopy that ensures accurate real-time analysis, paving the way for more efficient solar energy production,” said Dr Belrhiti.

Capable of withstanding temperatures of up to 1,400ºC, the technology could be adapted for the steel and nuclear industries, the announcement said.

The work was published in the journal Heliyon.

Extracted from IMechE website, read more here

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