New Technologies for Infrared Solar Energy

Current solar energy technologies, such as silicon photovoltaic cells, only use sun light in the visible spectrum which accounts for only half of the available solar energy [1].  Researchers at UCLA and MIT are currently working on cells that are capable of capturing near-infrared and infrared radiation from the sun.  Infrared radiation makes up an additional third of the suns radiation.  
     Researchers at MIT are producing a new kind photovoltaic cells made entirely out of carbon.  The cell consists of carbon nano tubes and C60 (buckyballs).  These cells are only 0.01% efficient in their early stages however, once production of uniform carbon nano tubes is capable the efficiency will increase greatly [2].  Meanwhile researchers at UCLA are making cells from silver nano wires and titanium dioxide particles to the tune of 4% efficient [3].  Though these panels are made out of different materials both of these cells are nearly transparent, light weight and have the potential to be produced in high volume for low cost.  Because the cells are nearly invisible they could be placed on top of current cells to increase the overall efficiency of the cell, it could cover the outside of a cell phone to charge it as the day goes on, or be applied to windows to generate power for a building.
     Once this technology is fully developed it will see tremendous uses and growth for the solar industry.  Because infrared radiation is emitted even at night and in bad weather it will ease some of the concerns that people have regarding the inconsistency of current solar energy technology. This will allow for greater utility of solar farms and reduce the amount of energy gathered from nonrenewable sources such as coal.


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