New solar cells can harvest heat in the dark

Solar panel and red sun

New metamaterial might change everything

The evolution of solar power may be taking a very interesting turn, as a team of scientists claim to have created a new optical magnetic metamaterial that could be a game-changer.

A research team from the Australian National University (ANU) and the University of California Berkeley (UC Berkeley) discovered radical new properties in an artificial material (also referred to as a nanomaterial or metamaterial) that could pave the way to a whole new type of solar power.

Solar power … without sunlight

And the radical new properties? Well, the new metamaterial possesses a physical property known as magnetic hyperbolic dispersion. So, scientific terms aside, this new metamaterial basically glows in an unusual way when heated.

So, if combined with thermophotovoltaic cells — cells that convert radiated heat into electricity — this new metamaterial could ultimately be part of high-efficiency thermophotovoltaic cells that could harvest heat in the dark.

The potential of thermophotovoltaic cells

Thermophotovoltaic cells do not require sunlight to create electricity, as the cells harvest heat in the form of infrared radiation.

According to Dr Sergey Kruk of the ANU Research School of Physics and Engineering, thermophotovoltaic cells actually have the potential to beat the efficiency of solar cells by a wide margin. Some estimates give thermophotovoltaic cells the potential to be twice as efficient as solar cells.

So … a new generation of solar cells that could potentially generate electricity in the dark? This could indeed be a major breakthrough in the realm of solar power.

Orginally published on → E-Wisdom