Improvements In Solar Harvesting

Solar power is all a matter of harvesting. It’s sort of hard to apply that word to what most people assume to be a technological process, but it is an apt description for what panels do. Whether it’s in the form of heat or light, solar panels function by gathering energy, harvesting it in a way analogous to the way farmers harvest their crops.

Understanding this basic concept, the question then becomes what sort of light is being harvested. Light transmits along a range of frequencies, only a limited band of which are visible light. These frequencies are narrow-band, high energy electromagnetic radiations ideal for direct conversion to electrical power through silicon-based photovoltaic (PV) crystalline cells. However, much of the light reaching Earth exists in the form of lower-frequency, low energy infrared radiation. This is also the reason why solar panels won’t function very well on cloudy days or at night, despite the fact that IR radiation passes through clouds and permeates the atmosphere under all conditions. So the challenge for engineers then becomes how to harvest this infrared radiation to produce usable power.

One line of research has, as can be expected, concentrated upon devising a whole new design PV cell using both visible and infrared light waves. This approach would result in a total redesign of commercial panel systems. This will cause prices to skyrocket, reversing current trends in falling prices making solar power cost-competitive against standard electricity generation. However, an alternative approach being pioneered by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, has focused upon adapting present day design in an innovative way.

Solar panels harvest visible light directly. The adaptation involves the addition of a hybrid surface material that can be overlaid upon present panels. This material has an inorganic and an organic layer. The organic layer has the effect of gathering infrared photons and squeezing them together into a narrower frequency band. As these are combined, they undergo excitation, shifting into the more energetic frequencies of visible light photons that can be used for PV cells. The result: energy production efficiency reaching or even exceeding 30%. This means more power coming out of the same solar panel area, a greater harvest. To find out more information, go now to the site linked to this page and discover the implications for both technology and investment possibilities.