In the first breakthrough, scientists discovered a way to convert invisible light into high energy light. The other breakthrough allows for the production of more efficient, less costly solar panels. (Image Credit: pixabay)

 

Scientists have discovered two major breakthroughs in solar cell technology, enabling them to use invisible light from the sun to generate electricity. These new discoveries make the conversion cheaper and more efficient. The breakthroughs were published in Nature Energy and Nature Photonics.

In the first breakthrough, scientists from the US and Australia have “upconverted” low-energy, invisible light into high energy light by using oxygen. This can then be utilized in solar cells to generate more electricity using the same amount of sunlight. 

 

“The energy from the sun is not just visible light. The spectrum is broad, including infrared light, which gives us heat and ultraviolet light, which can burn our skin. Most solar cells are made from silicon, which cannot respond to light less energetic than the near-infrared. This means that some parts of the light spectrum are going unused by many of our current devices and technologies.”  said Professor Tim Schmidt from UNSW Sydney.

 

This is achieved by using tiny semiconductors called quantum dots to absorb the low energy light and transform it into visible light, which can capture the energy.

 

The second breakthrough involves using a material called perovskites to build next-generation solar panels that are more efficient and stable than today’s solar cells made of silicone. Solar cells composed of perovskites are less expensive to build, flexible and lightweight. However, it has been challenging to scale up the material to produce solar panels measuring several meters in length.  

 

A new technique utilizes several layers to prevent energy loss or harmful chemicals from leaking while degrading. A 22.4cm module achieved an efficiency of 16.6%, which is very high for a module of this size. It also maintains a high-performance level after being used for 2,000 consecutive hours.

 

The researchers plan on testing their methods on larger solar panels. They hope to commercialize the technology in the future.

 

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