At SolarTech, we pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of green technology, and in the quest to find a reliable and efficient energy producer, solar panels have emerged as a fantastic way for home owners and businesses to save money on their energy bills. However, as much as they may be the future of electricity, there is a theoretical limit to how much energy can be harvested from the Suns’ rays, which is estimated to be approximately 33.5%. Despite this, the most energy that scientists had been able to capture stood at a mere 26% – until now.
In April this year, researchers from the University of California, Berkeley, managed to smash that record by demonstrating a new and considerably more efficient method for harnessing the power of the Sun. By utilising gallium arsenide (GaAs) in their solar cells – also used to make cells in satellites – they were able to achieve efficiency levels of 28.3%, a huge step forward towards the 33.5% target.
So how were they able to do it? Principal researcher and professor of electrical engineering Eli Yablonovitch and his team developed the idea that the better a cell is at emitting photons, the higher the voltage it can produce, which in turn improves the level of efficiency.
“The first reaction is usually, why does it help [to let these photons escape]? Don’t you want to keep [the photons] in, where maybe they could create more electrons?” says Owen Miller, a member of the development team.
“Fundamentally, it’s because there’s a thermodynamic link between absorption and emission,” Miller says. “If you have a solar cell that is a good emitter of light, it also makes it produce a higher voltage, which in turn increases the amount of electrical energy that can be harvested from the cell for each unit of sunlight.”
One thing is for sure, improvements in solar panel technology can only be a good thing for our energy bills and planet, saving us money to invest in other areas of our home such as loft insulation or double glazing. To find out more about what we offer at SolarTech, get in touch with us on 0845 838 2477.
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