Solar Energy Breakthroughs

Just this year we have broken the 40% efficiency barrier with solar cells.  Could this be the breakthrough we have been waiting for or just another promise to be broken?

According to Green Technology scientists from the Cavendish Laboratory, the University’s Department of Physics, have developed a novel type of solar cell which could harvest energy from the sun much more efficiently than traditional designs.

The research, published today, could dramatically improve the amount of useful energy created by solar panels.

Solar panels work by absorbing energy from particles of light, called photons, which then generate electrons to create electricity. Traditional solar cells are only capable of capturing part of the light from the sun and much of the energy of the absorbed light, particularly of the blue photons, is lost as heat.

This inability to extract the full energy of all of the different colours of light at once means that traditional solar cells are incapable of converting more than 34% of the available sunlight into electrical power.

The Cambridge team led by Professor Neil Greenham and Professor Sir Richard Friend has developed a hybrid cell which absorbs red light and harnesses the extra energy of blue light to boost the electrical current.

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