Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?

CleanTechnica
A microscope image shows cavities patterned into a film of carbon nanotubes which trap thermal photons and convert them into light to be converted by a PV cell. Credit: Chloe Doiron/Rice University

Clean Power

Turning Heat Into Light Could Make Solar Panels 80% Efficient, Rice Researchers Say

Researchers at Rice University have created a device they say could boost the efficiency of solar panels to a staggering 80%. How did they do that?

Don’t get too excited. What follows is a report about theoretical research in the lab which is a long way from commercial viability, but the implications of that research are simply staggering. Heat is the enemy of today’s solar panels. If they get too hot, their efficiency plummets. Researchers are working on ways to siphon some of that heat off and use it for other purposes, like making hot water. Others are exploring elaborate cooling systems that would add cost and complexity to solar systems.

“A scanning electron microscope image shows submicron-scale cavities patterned into films of aligned carbon nanotubes developed at Rice University. The cavities trap thermal photons and narrow their bandwidth, turning them into light that can then be recycled as electricity.” (Credit: Naik Lab/Rice University)

Scientists at Rice University are taking a different approach — turning heat into light which can then be used to make electricity. They say their research could ultimately lead to solar panels that are 80% efficient. That would make panels that are four times more efficient than any commercially available  panels today.

“Any hot surface emits light as thermal radiation,” Gururaj Naik, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Rice, tells PV Magazine. “The problem is that thermal radiation is broadband while the conversion of light to electricity is efficient only if the emission is in a narrow band.”

The research team has come up with the idea of using a film of carbon nanotubes to create a “hyperbolic thermal emitter” which can operate at temperatures as high as 700 degrees Celsius. The device only allows electrons to travel in one direction. By squeezing the photons emitted as heat into a narrower band, light is produced that can then be absorbed by a solar cell.

“By squeezing all the wasted thermal energy into a small spectral region we can turn it into electricity very efficiently. The theoretical prediction is that we can get 80% efficiency,” Naik says. The next step for the researchers will be to combine the hyperbolic thermal emitter with a solar cell. The results of the research to date have been  published in the journal ACS Photonics under the title “Macroscopically Aligned Carbon Nanotubes as a Refractory Platform for Hyperbolic Thermal Emitters.”

Okay, let’s be honest. This research is a long way from producing a hyper efficient solar panel. But if a panel is possible that is 4 times more efficient than anything available today, that is something CleanTechnica readers should know about and now you do. You’re welcome!


Appreciate CleanTechnica’s originality? Consider becoming a CleanTechnica Member, Supporter, Technician, or Ambassador — or a patron on Patreon.
 
 
Have a tip for CleanTechnica, want to advertise, or want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.
Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.

Comments

#1 most loved electric vehicle, solar energy, and battery news & analysis site in the world.

 

Support our work today!

Advertisement

Power CleanTechnica: $3/Month

Tesla News Solar News EV News Data Reports

Advertisement

EV Sales Charts, Graphs, & Stats

Advertisement

Our Electric Car Driver Report

30 Electric Car Benefits

Tesla Model 3 Video

Renewable Energy 101 In Depth

solar power facts

Tesla News

EV Reviews

Home Efficiency

You May Also Like

Clean Power

Perovskite is working its magic on the green hydrogen field and breathing new life into the artificial leaf concept for popping clean H2 out...

Batteries

The Energy Department is pursuing a mobility future populated by electric vehicles, despite the recently impeached President's support for fossil fuel.

Energy Storage

If all goes according to plan, formic acid energy storage could be the key to unlocking the sparkling green hydrogen economy of the future.

Clean Power

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which regularly publishes a chart of the world’s most efficient solar cells, has introduced a new chart of record-efficiency...

Copyright © 2021 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.