New research out of the UK finds that solar cells actually enjoy improved efficiency when exposed to the pounding beats of today’s pop and rock music. According to researchers from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, the high frequencies and pitch featured in pop and rock music trigger really “good vibrations” in solar cells that contain a cluster of ‘nano rods.’ Their research found that these vibrations improve efficiency by up to 40 percent, which could be especially good news for those working to develop lower cost, printed solar cells.

To confirm solar cells’ preference for rockin’ beats, the scientists grew billions of zinc oxide nano rods and covered them with an active polymer to form a device that converts sunlight into electricity. Thanks to “special properties of the zinc oxide material, the team was able to show that sound levels as low as 75 decibels (equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office) could significantly improve the solar cell performance,” according to a Queen Mary University press release.

“After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic,” said Dr Steve Dunn, Reader in Nanoscale Materials from Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science.

“We tried playing music instead of dull flat sounds, as this helped us explore the effect of different pitches. The biggest difference we found was when we played pop music rather than classical, which we now realise is because our acoustic solar cells respond best to the higher pitched sounds present in pop music,” said James Durrant, Professor of Photochemistry at Imperial College London, who co-led the study.

The researchers claim that the unique discovery could be used to harness solar power for devices that are exposed to acoustic vibrations, such as air conditioning units or within cars and other vehicles.

+Queen Mary University


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