Scientists at the Ohio State Institute for Materials Research have just announced that they have developed a new hyper-efficient solar material that is able to capture light from every spectrum of the rainbow. Whereas most photovoltaics can only collect energy from a small range of frequencies, the new material is able to absorb energy from the full spectrum of visible light. The breakthrough heralds a new breed of extremely efficient solar panels on the horizon.Sunlight contains the total spectrum of energy emitted by the sun, and visible light contains the range of wavelengths that we perceive as color. Whereas traditional photovoltaic materials only take advantage of certain wavelengths of light, Ohio State’s new material can capture energy from the entire visible spectrum, which results in tremendous gains in the amount of energy it can absorb.
The new electrically-conductive plastic includes materials such as molybdenum and titanium. It operates upon the same principles as standard photovoltaic materials, wherein light energizes the atoms of the material and knocks electrons free to generate a current. Whereas in traditional photovoltaics the electrons are removed for a fraction of a second, in the new hybrid material the electrons are excited for much longer (7 million times) than before.
Malcolm Chisholm, Chair of the Department of Chemistry at Ohio State has said: “This long-lived excited state should allow us to better manipulate charge separation. . . There are other such hybrids out there, but the advantage of our material is that we can cover the entire range of the solar spectrum”.
Although the material is still several years from commercial development, the project is an exciting proof of concept and has received funding from Ohio State’s Targeted Investments in Excellence program.