Technology 2 min read

New Solar Cells can Generate Power From Non-Visible Light

Roy Buri /

Roy Buri /

The solar spectrum extends beyond just the visible light. There’s the infrared light that provides heat and the ultraviolet light which burns our skin.

Unfortunately, the silicon used in most solar cells and photodiodes only responds to light that’s less energetic than the near-infrared. As a result, many of the light spectrums remain unused by current technologies.

Researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and UNSW Sydney have devised a solution.

The team figured out how to “upconvert light,” turning low energy, non-visible light into more energetic visible light that can excite silicon. As you can imagine, the breakthrough could potentially increase solar cells’ efficiency.

In a statement, senior author and researcher at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Exciton Science and UNSW Sydney, Professor Tim Schmidt said:

“One way of doing this is to capture multiple smaller energy photons of light and glue them together. This can be done by interacting the excitons in organic molecules.”

The researchers published their results in Nature Photonics.

Generating Power from Low Energy Non-Visible Light

For the study, the researchers collaborated with colleagues at RMIT University and the University of Kentucky.

Together, the team used semiconductor quantum dots — nanoscale human-made crystals — to absorb the low energy light. They then used molecular oxygen to transfer light to organic molecules.

In a perfect world, oxygen can harm molecular excitons. But its role changes at such low energy, mediating the energy transfer. This allows the organic molecules to emit visible light above the silicon bandgap.

Contributing author and Professor at RMIT University, Jared Cole points out :

“[Oxygen] was the Achilles heel that ruined all our plans, but now, not only have we found a way around it, suddenly it helps us.”

The breakthrough can potentially improve the way we harvest energy from the sun. Along with improving the efficiency of solar cells, the study could also make solar cells more affordable.

With that said, the efficiency of the method is still relatively low. As such, more work is necessary for the method to become available in solar cells.

But I’m very hopeful and think that we can improve the efficiency quickly,” says lead author Elham Gholizadeh.

Read More: Using Machine Learning Technique To Process Solar Data in Real-Time

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Sumbo Bello is a creative writer who enjoys creating data-driven content for news sites. In his spare time, he plays basketball and listens to Coldplay.

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