A group of researchers from MIT have discovered a way to expand the potential of solar cells by combining traditional silicon-based technology with a new all-carbon cell. This advance would mean that a combination solar cell would be able to use the entire spectrum of sunlight.
According to MIT, “40 percent of the solar energy reaching Earth’s surface lies in the near-infrared region of the spectrum — energy that conventional silicon-based solar cells are unable to harness.”
A carbon-based cell would be laid on top of a conventional solar cell because the material of the carbon-based cell is transparent to visibly light and able to capture near-infrared sunlight that the conventional solar cell would otherwise miss. In this way, the solar cell would be able to capture the entire spectrum of sunlight…theoretically.
Michael Strano, the Charles and Hilda Roddey Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT, is the senior author of a paper that will be published this month in the journal Advanced Materials.
Strano says that will this is ground-breaking technology (a “fundamentally new kind of photovoltaic cell”), preliminary “proof-of-concept devices” are only about to convert about 0.1 percent of sunlight to usable energy.
The group at MIT hopes that their efforts will be joined by research from other scientific research teams around the world. Rishabh Jain, a MIT graduate student and lead author of the paper, says that his team created a model system that can be added to for increased efficiency.
“If you could harness even a portion of the near-infrared spectrum, it adds value,” Strano said.