From Sun to Solar Cell

Sun as seen by Atmospheric Imaging Assembly of NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.

On our third journey we travel again with light, particles/wavelengths of energy, from their origin in the sun 150 million km from the earth; our companions will be photons, generated by fusion reactions deep within the surface of our near-perfectly spherical, 4.5 billion year old star. This time our journey takes into a new kind of solar cell that uses quantum physics to increase the harvest from sunlight.

Harvesting Light is a new approach to capturing more of the sunlight that strikes the earth every single day.

Solar cells absorb certain colours of light to generate electricity, but light that is not absorbed, i.e. that is the wrong colour, is effectively lost as heat.

Using quantum mechanics, and the way in which light interacts with a nanoparticle, it is possible to split a photon of light, say one blue photon, into two red photons, which are then the correct colour to be efficiently absorbed by a solar cell.

It should now be possible to apply this new, light-shifting, layer as a coating onto most existing solar cells; pushing up their maximum efficiency by changing the colour of the light striking them, and thereby increasing the amount of clean energy generated from the same amount of sunlight.

The research that is being undertaken in this new scientific project will be represented as a visual journey of light from its origins in the Sun, to its conversion into electricity in a ‘Harvesting Light’ solar cell.