Engineering 101

Hybrid Solar Cell Uses Both Light And Heat From The Sun To Generate Power

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Scientists are discovering more ways to maximize the sun’s power.

Even though today’s solar cells are pretty good at converting sunlight into electricity, commercial panels still harvest only part of the radiation they’re exposed to. Scientists are now trying to change that.

A display changes colors, powered solely by a new hybrid solar-energy device. ( Image Credit: American Chemical Society)
A display changes colors, powered solely by a new hybrid solar-energy device.
( Image Credit: American Chemical Society)

A newly discovered solar method, developed by Eunkyoung Kim and colleagues, of the American Chemical Society, involves a system of solar cells with different materials that capture more of the sun’s energy. The team incorporated a clear, conductive polymer called PEDOT in its attempts.

What they came up with was a hybrid  solar-energy system that captures the full spectrum of the sun’s radiation by pairing a photovoltaic cell with polymer films.

The newly created device, which can produce a voltage more than five times higher than other hybrid systems, was created by layering a dye-sensitized solar cell on top of a PEDOT film, which heats up in response to light. Under that layer, the researchers added a pyroelectric thin film and a thermoelectric device (for conversion of heat into electricity).

According to the American Chemical Society, when all of the components work together, they produce a system that is 20% more efficient than a solar cell working alone. A system that powerful could potentially operate LED lamps and even an electrochromic display.

See the demo below for more information.

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