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

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.