Researchers at Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (Berkley Lab) have made a breakthrough that could dramatically increase solar cell energy conversion output. This team of international scientists has re-engineered the chemical structure of nano particles that will allow solar panels to convert light usually missed by solar cells into usable energy. By coating tiny particles with organic dyes – the experiment was able to greatly enhance the compounds ability to capture near-infrared light.
You see most of the light we interact with everyday we can’t see with our eyes. You may have heard of terms like UV rays, X-rays, or microwaves. These are different forms of light, except humans cannot see with the naked eye. Only a small fraction of the light spectrum is actually visible to humans.
Through this work we could potentially harness a greater portion of the light spectrum. These findings could significantly increase the amount of light solar panels absorb, and in turn, the amount of energy solar panels can produce.
That is – if researchers can figure out how to stabilize the compound.
To date this demonstration has only been accomplished in nitrogen rich environments. On earth these nitrogen rich conditions can only be replicated in labs. The compound is found to quickly degrade when exposed to air. This is a major hurdle for the research before it can have any real-world applications.
All in all, efficient light conversion at low light intensities could be critical in the advancement of solar harvesting technologies.
These findings are a result of an international effort. Scientists from Sungkyunkwan University in South Korea & UC Berkley collaborated on this research. The US Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation, the China Scholarship Council, and the Ministry of Planning of South Korea all had a hand in financially supporting this work.