Researchers developing more powerful solar cells

October 9th, 2008 - 3:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Oct 9 (IANS) University of Rochester researchers are designing more efficient solar cells by using special coatings that split light into colours like blue and red, to boost their power by 50 percent. Researchers then would then use different types of solar cell materials that each optimally absorbs energy from a light of different colour, said Duncan Moore, a professor at Rochester research, who is leading the team that is trying to boost this further by finding ways to intensify the light.

Moore is designing an optical cover for solar panels that concentrates sunlight - much like a magnifying glass that concentrates sunlight enough that it can burn wood.

The problem with making such small solar power generators is that even the most advanced solar cells currently available are not efficient enough. The highest efficiencies demonstrated so far have been just more than 40 percent, but those demonstrations have taken place in carefully controlled lab settings and not with portable field units as the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) programme calls for.

Besides that, the most efficient laboratory cells rely on expensive-to-manufacture materials that cost some $50,000 to $70,000 per square metre, according to a release of Optical Society of America.

The sort of commercial solar panels you might buy today to have installed on your rooftop are much cheaper, but they are even less efficient, topping out at 16 to 17 percent. The DARPA programme calls for efficiencies of 50 percent.

These findings will be presented on Oct 22 at the Rochester Riverside Convention Centre.

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