The discoveries from the universities could help to make photovoltaic cells less expensive and more efficient.
New research breakthroughs are showing that next generation cells for solar energy from invisible light can make this renewable electricity production cheaper and more efficient than current commercial photovoltaic panels.
These cells could be made possible through two significant breakthroughs in this technology.
These new cells that collect solar energy from invisible light involve two separate but important breakthroughs. It could greatly advance the way power is collected from sunlight. The two breakthroughs were described in studies published in the journals Nature Photonics and Nature Energy. Scientists are saying that this technology will allow for a substantial reduction in the cost of manufacturing the photovoltaic cells.
The first breakthrough has to do with non-visible light. It “upconverts” the low energy wavelengths into high energy light in order to make it possible to use it to generate electricity from the same span of sunlight.
UNSW University and RMIT University researchers in Australia worked with University of Kentucky. Together, they found that oxygen molecules can be used for converting low energy light into usable electricity.
This new solar energy from invisible light makes it possible to get more electricity from the same 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,” said UNSW Sydney’s Professor Tim Schmidt. “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.”
The second breakthrough utilizes perovskite as a material for making photovoltaic cells more stable and efficient than panels made from silicon. Cells made with this material are also less expensive than those made from silicon. Moreover, they are lightweight and flexible.
Though there are challenges to the solar energy from invisible light, there were also limitations regarding the perovskite as it is difficult to scale up. However, a new approach uses multiple layers of the material to prevent the loss of energy or the leaching of toxic chemicals as the panels degrade over time.