New Solar Panels Aim to Capture Light We Don’t See

July25, 2012 by Shannalee in Solar Living

new solar cells from MITThere’s more to the sun’s power than the part we can see—just ask anyone who’s gotten a sunburn on an overcast summer afternoon. In addition to the powerful, visible spectrum we can look at and which most photovoltaics are built on, there is another part. And new solar cells from the researchers at MIT are designed to capitalize on that overlooked aspect of solar power.

Through their first “all-carbon” solar cells, MIT researchers have found a way to capture light we don’t see and turn it into usable energy. Through a new device that goes right on top of existing panels and uses carbon instead of silicon as their primarily material, researchers have found a way to make it possible to put carbon nanotubes and C60 to work changing infrared light into electric currency.

“It’s a fundamentally new kind of photovoltaic cell,” said Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT. “If you could harness even a portion of the near- infrared spectrum, it adds value.”

While the production of purified carbon nanotubes on a large scale and for affordable prices is only now a new reality, there is a good chance that further refinements could lead the concept to spread to many other surfaces as well. Since its transparent to visible light, these cells can overlay regular solar panels or other materials.

“It’s very much a model system and other groups with help increase the efficiency,” said Rishabh Jain, a graduate student and a lead author of the study.

At Soluxe Solar, we’re always excited to hear about new developments in the world of solar and are looking forward to future applications of MIT’s new device!

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