Every time you go outside you emit energy – with heat from the top of your head radiating into space as infrared light.
Three Stanford engineers have developed a technology that improves on solar panel performance by exploiting this basic phenomenon.
Their invention shunts away the heat generated by a solar cell under sunlight and cools it in a way that allows it to convert more photons into electricity.
The group’s discovery addresses a problem that has long bedeviled the solar industry: the hotter solar cells get, the less efficient they become at converting the photons in light into electricity.
The Stanford solution is based on a thin, patterned silica material laid on top of a traditional solar cell.
The material is transparent to the sunlight, but captures and emits thermal radiation from infrared rays.
“Our thermal overlay allows sunlight to pass through, preserving or even enhancing sunlight absorption, but it also cools the cell by radiating the heat out and improving the cell efficiency.”