Researchers at the University of Michigan have made a discovery about the behavior of light that could change solar technology forever. Stephen Rand, a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Physics and William Fisher, a doctoral student in applied physics, discovered that light, when traveling at the right intensity through a material such as glass that does not conduct electricity, can create magnetic fields that are 100 million times stronger than previously thought possible. In these conditions, the resulting magnetic field is strong enough to rival a strong electric effect. The result is an “optical battery, which could lead to “a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation”, according to Rand.
Rand revealed the research in a paper published in the Journal of Applied Physics. Instead of requiring semiconductor processing, the new technique would only require “lenses to focus the light and a fiber to guide it,” according to Fisher. “Glass works for both. It’s already made in bulk, and it doesn’t require as much processing. Transparent ceramics might be even better.” Rand and Fisher predict that they could achieve efficiency with this new technology that is equivalent to today’s commercial-grade solar cells.
With efficiencies equal to current commercial-grade panels, the new solar tech could lead to more affordable home-based arrays that integrate more seamlessly into your home–maybe even directly into your windows?