Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Solar power: Building a better suntrap | The Economist

Solar power: Building a better suntrap | The Economist:

A new way to collect solar PV, using a metal abosrber with microscopic pits that concentrate heat, radiate onto gallium arenide, that is placed behind it.

The result, according to Dr Bermel’s calculations, would be a system that converts 37% of sunlight into electricity. This compares with a maximum of 28% by standard silicon-based solar cells that have not had the incident light concentrated by parabolic mirrors, and 31% by those that have—a significant enhancement. The next step, of course, is to try it for real, but Dr Bermel is pretty confident his sums are correct.
Tungsten, as a material, was much used in the filaments of incandescent electric light bulbs. These are going out of fashion because they convert too much of the electricity passing through them into heat, rather than light. A nice irony, then, that running the process backwards may not only give tungsten a new lease of life, but might also help solve the world’s shortage of renewable energy.

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