Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Become a Member

Get access to more than 30 brands, premium video, exclusive content, events, mapping, and more.

Already have an account? Sign In

Brands

News

The Solar Future

Solar cell material breakthrough offers nearly 100-percent efficiency

Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.

In the coming alternative energy wars, there will be plenty of contenders—biofuels, wind power, solar, etc.—competing for the attention of both innovators and investors. But solar power just took a big step out in front: Researchers at Ohio State University just stumbled upon a material that could absorb almost all of the sun’s energy. Current solar cells have about 7-40 percent absorption efficiency.

Best of all, the researchers discovered this near-magical material by accident: The hybrid of plastics, molybdenum, and titanium came about when the scientists involved used supercomputers to determine possible theoretical molecular configurations. As an unintended side effect, they created a material capable of siphoning off energy from solar-charged electrons 7 million times longer than traditional solar cells.

Don’t cut your power cables and go off the grid just yet, though. Researchers only created a few molecules of the stuff, and it’ll take several years to bring down costs and create the national, broad-based infrastructure required to pipeline the alternative energy to your home.

For additional commentary and help decoding the science-y jargon, I went to the most reputable solar source I know: My dad, Ed Alvarez, a polymer chemist who built a solar-powered, off-the-grid cabin himself. Here’s what he had to say:

You tell ’em, Dad. Fight the power for power!

—Ted Alvarez

New solar cell material achieves almost 100% efficiency, could solve world-wide energy problems (TG Daily)