U.S. researchers claim solar enegy advance
Aug 11, 2010
Scientists say a new process utilizing both the light and heat of solar radiation could double the efficiency of electricity-generating solar panels.
Stanford University researchers say the technology, called "photon enhanced thermionic emission," could lower the costs of solar energy production to the point where it is competitive with oil as an energy source, a university release said Monday.
Unlike current solar panels, which become less efficient as temperatures, panels using the PETE process excel at higher temperatures, the release said.
"This is really a conceptual breakthrough, a new energy conversion process, not just a new material or a slightly different tweak," Stanford Professor Nick Melosh said. "It is actually something fundamentally different about how you can harvest energy."
Such devices could be made with cheap and easily available materials, the release said.
Melosh's team found that coating a piece of semiconducting material with a thin layer of the metal cesium produced a material able to use both light and heat to generate electricity.
"The PETE process could really give the feasibility of solar power a big boost," Melosh said. "Even if we don't achieve perfect efficiency, let's say we give a 10 percent boost to the efficiency of solar conversion, going from 20 percent efficiency to 30 percent; that is still a 50 percent increase overall."