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Why can’t solar cells pickup infrared?

You’ve got to love infrared cameras. When used in nature programmes they deliver stunning effects. The Blair Witch-esque images are captivating.

So, if a camera can pick up infrared and UV, then why can’t a solar cell? Instead, they solely absorb light from from the visible spectrum, ignoring ultraviolet and infrared rays. It doesn’t take Einstein to point out that the energy picked up, therefore, is sorely limited.

A new material may change this however.  Spanish researchers have used titanium and vanadium to utilise the infrared band and get more from, as Poirot puts it, “the little grey cells.”

As EcoGeek puts it:

“The new material provides a “stepping-stone” for electrons to move from one energy level to another as they absorb photons, allowing more photons of different energy levels (and thus different parts of the light spectrum) to be utilized. So while some efficiency research goes into breaking down what is absorbed into specific wavelengths or trapping light for greater absorption, this technology basically casts a really wide net in order to increase how much light can be captured and turned into energy.”

The new material hasn’t yet been tested, but the researchers have stated a maximum efficiency of 63 per cent. Traditional solar cells have a maximum of 40pc with a realistic 30 per cent conversion rate. So, hopefully, this should be a lot better.

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