The Solar Future

Solar cell material breakthrough offers nearly 100-percent efficiency

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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)

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