BREAKING: Solar Power Breakthrough Could Render Photovoltaic Cells Obsolete

by , 04/14/11

solar panels, solar technology, solar breakthrough, alternative energy, solar energy, green design, eco-design, University of Michigan

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.

solar panels, solar technology, solar breakthrough, alternative energy, solar energy, green design, eco-design, University of Michigan

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?

Via PhysOrg

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  1. jgbech February 28, 2015 at 5:38 pm

    I was a consultant for 8 years for a solar system rental company CitizenRe. I am currently working on improving the solar footprint with the governor of Florida, Rick Scott. I have recommended a multi source \”farm\” near and on the ocean where the power mix will include solar, wind, tides and geothermal. However, I am not up to speed on the status and technological advances with the replacement for photovoltaic and battery storage. Can you update me? Thanks.

  2. chazmatz May 5, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Lets not let this energy breakthrough get bought by Big Energy and buried like so many of the others through history. The time is short to allow this energy to spread over the planet.

  3. efd2051 April 18, 2011 at 11:53 am

    Amazing how in the dark some people are. Maybe its the media they are tuned to??

    Some facts:

    U-M scientists and engineers have been awarded more than 500 federal stimulus-package research grants to date, totaling $301.1 million.

    …The solar project is the U-M’s largest stimulus award to date.

  4. Ec2 April 16, 2011 at 2:24 am

    OK, very good! Now… HOW much and WHEN?

  5. manyom April 15, 2011 at 6:50 pm


  6. caeman April 15, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    Private industry often provides research funds to universities to carry out the research. Not every company is set up with the kind of labs that universities already have.

  7. jmanooch April 15, 2011 at 1:06 pm

    Gosh. Some people have difficult seeing beyond the horizon of their own ideology.

    Free-market: if it works, quite helpful. But not a standalone device, except for fantasists.

    Did you forget to read the bit above about this breakthrough coming from a post-doc at U Michigan?

    Um, yeah. It’s like that y’all. Public sector investments in research always drive private sector gains at this scale. Because these champions of free-marketeering would never ‘invest’ in the basic science required to discovered weird stuff like this. Of course they want to /exploit/ it. But discover it? Meh. Leave that to the geeks. Etc.

    Gah. How many times must this be revealed/repeated? Even medical research works this way; building on basic science done in unis.

  8. kimberlyjones1 April 15, 2011 at 10:15 am


  9. caeman April 15, 2011 at 7:50 am

    Careful there, Lazy, that kind of free market and competition talk might get you kicked out of these parts.

  10. lazyreader April 15, 2011 at 7:48 am

    And to think we we’re supposed to buy all those solar panels and all those factories and other stuff that was built on stimulus money that now will is obselete or will under perform. Let the free market loose to develop this stuff on their own.

  11. mgent11 April 15, 2011 at 2:09 am

    sounds good, hope they can get it marketed quickly

  12. umar butt April 15, 2011 at 1:37 am

    yes we need new advanced and cheap solar energy solutions specially for people living in third world countries where electricity has not reached yet.

  13. caeman April 14, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    Even if it isn’t as efficient, removing the need for rare earth elements in the voltaic electronics is a big step forward for solar electric. Glass is super cheap and super plentiful. We have entire deserts of the stuff!

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