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Cutting Edge - Solar panel efficiency gets green light

MATERIALS

RECENT technological advances in solar energy have made harnessing power from the sun viable even on the most miserable of October days.

And now scientists at a research centre in Germany have developed a process that can improve the efficiency of solar power cells.

By using two light sensitive materials to increase the energy levels in light particles, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, have ensured that none of the energy in the suns rays is wasted.

Normally the efficiency of solar cells is limited because the longwave, low-energy part of the sunlight is difficult to harvest.

By shortening the wave length and increasing the low energy in the light particles or photons found in the longwave range the photovoltaic cells are able to glean more energy from the sun.

Previously this has only been achievable by using lasers to combine two low energy photons to produce one high energy photon.

But by using two chemical solutions, platinum octaethyl porphyrin and diphenylanthracene, the scientists have been able to convert the longwave green light from a normal light source into shortwave blue light. This shortwave light energy is easier for solar cells to harvest.

The research team are convinced the procedure will lead to more efficient solar energy systems and are currently looking at other chemicals that could allow different colours in the light spectrum to be harvested.