From: Jesse Emspak, Discovery News
Published June 22, 2012 07:54 AM

Solar Cell Absorbs Invisible Light

A new kind of solar cell made from carbon harvests sunlight that other cells can't see. The technology could greatly boost the efficiency of solar panels and help bring the down the price of solar panels.

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The invisible sunlight being captured is the near-infrared part of the spectrum, which makes up a whopping 40 percent of the wavelengths of light beaming down from the sun. Most solar cells, made from silicon or special plastics, harvest visible light, the wavelengths of light we see in a rainbow. But so far, that's not very efficient.

Looking for a way to improve the efficiency of solar cells, a research team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology turned to carbon nanotubes and C60, otherwise known as buckyballs. Carbon solar cells absorb energy from the near-infrared wavelengths of without heating up, the way that silicon cell do.

Previous attempts at making photovoltaic cells of carbon have been tried before, but the resulting cells required a layer of polymer to hold the carbon nanotubes in place. The MIT team's cell is stable when exposed to air. Layers of carbon nanotubes and buckyballs are also transparent. That means one can put a layer of the carbon on top of an ordinary solar cell and boost the energy output.

Article continues at Discovery News

Buckyball image via Shutterstock

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