Solar technologies are constantly evolving towards higher efficiencies thanks to the development of materials capable of absorbing more of the sun’s visible energy. A new DARPA-funded project explores nanostructured materials that break sunlight into its constituents, allowing for solar cells to absorb specific colors of the spectrum. According to the researchers, this approach could improve efficiency of solar panels by over 50 percent.
Through manipulation of light at a very small scale, scientists have so far succeeded in sorting it by color, trapping it and guiding it by using thin layers of material that incorporate features often smaller than the wavelength of light. The challenge of the new project is to create precisely structured materials that can be manufactured in larger volumes and used in the solar industry.
Sunlight is decomposed into smaller ranged wavelengths that correspond to different colors. Each of these is aimed to precisely tuned solar cells that are most efficient when absorbing specific colors, allowing for higher levels of solar-to-electricity conversion efficiency.
The only issue with this kind of technology seems to be one of scale and finance. Nonetheless, though it may take years before these types of solar photovoltaic panels are produced at competitive prices, their efficiency could potentially revolutionize the solar industry.