Research Focuses on Improving Solar Panel

Solar energy continues to be a hot-trending topic, as more countries embrace the renewable power source and more companies invest on developing this technology.

Despite the years of development that it has undergone, solar technology has not been perfected yet. According to this previous article, the current generation of solar panels can only achieve up to 20 percent efficiency – that is, only 20 percent of the total solar power projected onto the panel is converted to useful electricity. This relatively low performance has prompted several studies to improve solar conversion.

A recent study from the University of Delaware was recently reported in a news release to have developed a new solar panel component that could increase energy efficiency. The researchers investigated a concept called “band gap”, which energy particles need to cross so that they can be used as electricity. Otherwise, those that cannot bridge the gap will be lost as heat.

To achieve this, the research team used very thin layers of semiconductors with the aim of exciting the electrons into higher energy states. In a more specific viewpoint, the technology will fuse the energy of “two low-energy particles to make one photon with enough energy to clear the hurdle.” The material is a combination of indium and gallium in high purity and very thin films. The creation process involves a technology known as molecular beam epitaxy while inside a vacuum machine.

This idea isn’t really new – previous studies have already delved into the possibility of energy combination – but this new study might result in significantly better efficiency.

While their technology may still be light years away from becoming a cheap and highly useful component of solar panels, technological discoveries like this are always welcome in the field of solar energy.

[Photo courtesy of Dawn Ellner on Flickr]