Science News

New Highly Efficient, Wearable, Solar Cell Material

Sun, 23rd Jan 2005

Part of the show Probiotics & Life on Titan ?

Scientists from the University of Toronto have invented a flexible solar cell material that is five times more efficient than current methods of turning the sun's energy into electricity. Unlike existing solar cell technology, which uses visible light and is capable of turning at best 6% of the sun's energy into useable electrical energy, the new material engineered by Ted Sargent and his team harnesses infrared light and can capture 30% of the sun's power to produce electricity. Their reliance on infrared means that the new cell can produce electricity even on a cloudy day or in the dark because although visible light may be lacking, things that are warm, including people and animals, are emitting infrared radiation which the cell can use. An added bonus is that the new material is also highly flexible so it can be turned into a film to coat the surfaces of cloth, paper or other materials, potentially paving the way for wearable solar garments which Sargent terms "portable electricity". This means that you could run your electronic gadgetry off your coat, or have a roll-up solar cell to help recharge your laptop, on the move. Sargent is now looking for investors to help commercialise the invention which, he says, could be on the market within 5 to 10 years


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