A team of researchers from MIT have reportedly developed a new solar absorption material that is close to ideal maximum efficiency at a reasonable cost.
To make the most efficient solar panel possible, developers need to make sure it reaches the ‘goldilocks zone’ of absorption of the spectrums of light, but not enough that the energy levels would be so strong as to reradiate that energy back into the atmosphere.
Now, according to MIT researchers, this new material is made of a two-dimensional metallic dielectric photonic crystal which has the additional benefits of absorbing sunlight from a wide range of angles and withstanding extremely high temperatures.
Based off the solar-thermophotovoltaic (STPV) model which turns the heat generated by the sun’s light into energy, the new material will be used to fill the hollow found in the traditional STPV devices, which are less efficient.
Speaking of his team’s findings, MIT post-doc Jeffrey Chou said the researchers were surprised it hadn’t been tried before.
“(The STPV devices) were empty, there was air inside. No one had tried putting a dielectric material inside, so we tried that and saw some interesting properties.”
In the team’s tests so far, its material has been able to withstand temperatures of around 1,000°C for 24 hours without signs of degradation.
While the process of production uses currently available methods, the next step is to prove other cheaper materials can be used to create the team’s solar absorber as its current metal, ruthenium, is rather expensive.
After more testing is completed, the team expects to have a commercially available product within five years.
Solar panels image via Shutterstock