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Fraunhofer black silicon could catch more energy from infrared light, go green with sulfur

Jon Fingas , @jonfingas

Generating solar power from the infrared spectrum, or even nearby frequencies, has proven difficult in spite of a quarter of the Sun's energy passing through those wavelengths. The Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications may have jumped that hurdle to efficiency through sulfur -- one of the very materials that solar energy often helps eliminate. By irradiating ordinary silicon through femtosecond-level laser pulses within a sulfuric atmosphere, the technique melds sulfur with silicon and makes it easier for infrared light electrons to build into the frenzy needed for conducting electricity. The black-tinted silicon that results from the process is still in the early stages and needs improvements to automation and refinement to become a real product, but there's every intention of making that happen: Fraunhofer plans a spinoff to market finished laser systems for solar cell builders who want their own black silicon. If all goes well, the darker shade of solar panels could lead to a brighter future for clean energy.