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Solar Nanotechnology

Solar technology may have just gotten even more exciting.

Researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology have figured out how to utilize sunlight to convert it to energy more efficiently and with more control than a standard photovoltaic cell.

Solar Nanotechnology

Image source: nature.com

Inventing a nanophotonic solar thermophotovoltaic instrument, they have uncovered a process which uses the sun to activate a temperature reactive material. The system uses both photovoltaic cells to generate energy as well as solar thermal energy, which is capable of storing power.

Their device employs nanotubes made from absorbent carbon to caputure sunlight that is turned into thermal energy, and can then be used for making electricity without wasting any of the power. The captured ultraviolet radiation is gathered by a standard solar system and the collected and stored energy is able to be used on demand, generating an efficient and reliable power supply.

Solar Nanotechnology

Image source: cdn.physorg.com

This system is different in that it makes the most use of sunlight, instead of some of the energy getting lost in the process.

According to the researchers, typical silicon based solar cells do not completely use up the photons, as some of the energy is lost during the conversion. Turning it into useable electricity necessitates that the power of the photon has to equal the energy level of the photovoltaic material, which is called a bandgap. The bandgap of the normally used silicon reacts to wavelengths of light, but not as efficiently as it does miss collecting some of the light’s rays.

The researchers point out the need for more hybrid solar power technologies, and hope that their system of solar thermophotovoltaic energy transformation may be an innovative approach.

For more information about the technology, read the published article in Nature Nanotechnology and check out the editorial on Phys.org.

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