Alternative Energy

Alternative Energy

Alternative energy news, and information about renewable energy technologies.

Jul 02

The Ultimate Solar Cell?

Posted in Energy Inventions | Photovoltaic Cells | Solar Power

Ultimate Solar Cell The ultimate step in utilizing solar power is to convert maximum energy from sun into electricity. This will make solar power highly cost-advantageous compared to other traditional power sources. Capturing energy wasted as heat from the sun can increase solar conversion efficiency greatly. Research funded by the U.S. Department of Energy is on-going to make this happen.

Not all solar energy utilized:

Actually only about 31% of solar energy is converted into electricity. The rest of the energy is not able to be harnessed as it becomes heat – as ‘hot electrons’ – which is lost very quickly because electrons cool down very fast. Capturing almost all solar energy and converting to electricity is the goal of the ‘ultimate solar cell’.

Utilizing the hot electrons:

Since half the solar energy is lost as heat, the first step will be to slow down the cooling rate of these electrons. The second step will be to capture the hot electrons and use them before the heat energy gets dissipated and lost. And harness the heat energy taking the electrons out via a conducting wire with minimal energy loss.

Semiconductor nanocrystals – quantum dots:

Quantum dots play a pivotal role in the transfer of hot electrons. The research showed that the hot electrons can be transferred to a titanium dioxide electron conductor with the help of photo-excited lead selenide nanocrystals (quantum dots). The aim is to minimize energy loss by having the most effective conductor wire. This will allow the fast removal of electrons from the solar cell before they cool down.

Solar power – the best energy source:

With growing awareness of dwindling sources of fossil fuels, green, environmentally friendly, bio-renewable energy sources are beacon lights of energy sources in future. Solar energy will be the most efficient and common source of such energy. This research is an important step in the creation of the ultimate solar cell.

The team:

Chemist, Xiaoyang Zhu, University of Texas, Austin, led the team consisting of William Tisdale, Brooke Timp, David Norris and Eray Aydil – all from the University of Minneso and also Kenrick Williams, from University of Texas.

  • BreathontheWind

    This is certainly useful when electricity is what is needed. We have also seen attempts to increase the efficiency of photovoltaic cells by capturing the energy as heat in a kind of CHP array. Heat also has many potential options for energy storage that are not available for electrical storage.

  • Rojelio

    Yea, I tried to get on my asphalt shingle roof the other day but it was too hot. And I live in Montana, so this doesn’t even compare to someplace like Las Vegas or Pheonix. Don’t we have any low-budget roof blankets that would capture some of this wasted heat and convert it to something useful like charging a big battery?

  • Jim Van Damme

    Lead selenide would seem to be cheaper than gallium arsenide. Unfortunately with all these thermionic approaches, they give max efficiency at higher temps, which means concentrating systems. They don’t lend themselves to panels on the roof.

  • BreathontheWind

    Concentrated systems can also be constructed using lenses rather than reflectors. This would allow some higher temps. There is no replacement however to simply gathering more sunlight. Heliostats on the ground might be employed (albeit less efficiently) to increase sunlight to roof mounted panels.

Family-sized Solar Car to Race in World Solar Challenge


Solar Team Great Britain has started a kickstarter page to help fund their design for entry in the 2017 World Solar Challenge. Founder Steven Heape leads a team of volunteers

Floating Solar Panels: A Viable Solution?


Since 2011, French Company Ciel & Terre has been developing large-scale floating solar solutions. Their innovative Hydrelio Floating PV system allows standard PV panels to be installed on large bodies

Tulip Shaped Solar Plants to be Installed in Ethiopia


AORA Solar has announced that it will begin construction of its solar-biogas power plants in Ethiopia. Construction of the first pilot plant will start by mid-2015. Ethiopia’s Minister of Water,

3D Printed Solar Energy Trees


How would nature do it? Researchers at the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland may be discovering the answer, thanks to advancing solar and 3D printing technologies. They have developed

The Benefits of Solar Power (Infographic)

Solar Power World Map

Home Inspector Bill Barber recently created an excellent infographic that details how solar panels can power homes and help the environment at the same time. According to the infographic,

Oriental Hornet: Expert Solar Power Harvester

Oriental Hornet: Expert Solar Power Harvester

Do you know who is the most competent solar power expert, according to a research team from Tel Aviv University? It is the humble common Oriental hornet found

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Greenest Destination in New York City

Brooklyn Bridge Park: Greenest Destination in New York City

New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Park is getting even greener with the addition of a solar powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station – the first of its kind in

Artificial Electronic Super Skin – Powered By Stretchable Solar Cells

Artificial Electronic Super Skin – Powered By Stretchable Solar Cells

Zhenan Bao, Stanford researcher, is keen to create “Super skin.” Taking her previously created super-sensitive sensor a step ahead, she is now creating a super skin that will be