Quantum process helps solar panels double energy output
Environment Energy Solar

Quantum process helps solar panels double energy output

Dr Andrew Pun
Dr Andrew Pun

Scientists have developed a method to tweak light, allowing them to double the electricity solar panels generate.

In 10 seconds? Researchers have come up with two different ways to boost the efficiency of solar cells by tinkering with light on the subatomic level and helping save money in the process.

Care to shed some light on this? Well, solar panels are not so expensive to make, but solar farms are hosted on expensive land. So any boost in efficiency means they can take up less space. To solve this problem, scientists have found a way to harness parts of the light spectrum that were previously useless for solar cells. (Find out more)

And what’s the subatomic magic here? Solar cells generate electrical current when light particles (photons) hit their semiconductor surface. In this process, pairs of ‘charge carriers’ are created and travel to the negative and positive contacts. But not all photons can do this: the ones in ultraviolet waves aren’t harnessed efficiently, and the ones in the infrared range are ‘wasted’ as they just pass through the solar cell. So scientists added some crystals to the panels’ surface to harness infrared light too, in a process called upconversion. (Read the paper)

Wait, this sounds like some fantasy novel! Nope, it’s science and here is how it’s done: researchers combined semiconductor nanocrystals and a different class of molecules into the surface of the panels. This combination can ‘upconvert’ photons to the visible and near UV-range of the sunlight spectrum – which is precisely the kind of light that silicon-based solar panels can convert into electricity. (Read More)

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