What's this orange-like patch, you ask? It's a layer of carbon nanotubes on silicon, and it might just be instrumental to getting a lot more power out of solar cells than we're used to. Current solar power largely ignores near-infrared light and wastes about 40 percent of the potential energy it could harness. A mix of carbon nanotubes and buckyballs developed by MIT, however, can catch that near-infrared light without degrading like earlier composites. The all-carbon formula doesn't need to be thickly spread to do its work, and it simply lets visible light through -- it could layer on top of a traditional solar cell to catch many more of the sun's rays. Most of the challenge, as we often see for solar cells, is just a matter of improving the energy conversion rate. Provided the researchers can keep refining the project, we could be looking at a big leap in solar power efficiency with very little extra footprint, something we'd very much like to see on the roof of a hybrid sedan.
All-carbon solar cell draws power from near-infrared light, our energy future is literally that much brighter
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