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Breakthrough Solar Cell Technology at MIT
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Breakthrough Solar Cell Technology at MIT

Solar Cell Technology @ MIT

Could this be the future of solar energy? One day this solar cell may help power our lives. Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are currently developing what could be the future of solar energy. Traditional solar cell technology only absorbs a specific range of the light spectrum.

For this reason most solar cells on the market have a maximum efficiency of 30%. Much of the energy from sunlight is lost, while only a small range of the entire spectrum is captured and ultimately turned into electricity.

Teams at MIT are trying to change this. Their approach in layman’s terms is to first turn the energy captured by solar cells into heat and converted back into light, but focused within the spectrum solar cells can absorb.

The key step in creating the device was the development of something called an absorber-emitter. It essentially acts as a light funnel above the solar cells. The absorbing layer is built from solid black carbon nanotubes that capture all the energy in sunlight and convert most of it into heat. As temperatures reach around 1,000 °C, the adjacent emitting layer radiates that energy back out as light, now mostly narrowed to bands that the photovoltaic cells can absorb. The emitter is made from a photonic crystal, a structure that can be designed at the nanoscale to control which wavelengths of light flow through it.

There are some huge limitations to the technology. For starters the equipment only works in a vacuum. Then there is also the issue of the enormous cost of the equipment.The technology is still 10 years out and still early in development.  Moreover, there are many barriers this technology will have to have to overcome to achieve practical use.

Read more about this technology at MIT Technology Review.

This is just one of the many approaches teams from around the world are developing.  Solar technology looks to make improvements in efficiency and bring on a renewable energy future.  Do you think this or a related technology could power the future? Tell us what you think in the comments!

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