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New Method Harnessing Photons = Increased Effective Solar Energy

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December 1, 2012 in Technology

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A new way of harnessing photons for electricity, potential for capturing a wider spectrum of solar energy
November 26, 2012 by David L. Chandler
A visualization of the broad-spectrum solar energy funnel. Credit: Yan Liang

The quest to harness a broader spectrum of sunlight’s energy to produce electricity has taken a radically new turn, with the proposal of a “solar energy funnel” that takes advantage of materials under elastic strain.

“We’re trying to use elastic strains to produce unprecedented properties,” says Ju Li, an MIT professor and corresponding author of a paper describing the new solar-funnel concept that was published this week in the journal Nature Photonics.

In this case, the “funnel” is a metaphor: Electrons and their counterparts, holes—which are split off from atoms by the energy of photons—are driven to the center of the structure by electronic forces, not by gravity as in a household funnel. And yet, as it happens, the material actually does assume the shape of a funnel: It is a stretched sheet of vanishingly thin material, poked down at its center by a microscopic needle that indents the surface and produces a curved, funnel-like shape.

The pressure exerted by the needle imparts elastic strain, which increases toward the sheet’s center. The varying strain changes the atomic structure just enough to “tune” different sections to different wavelengths of light—including not just visible light, but also some of the invisible spectrum, which accounts for much of sunlight’s energy.

Read more at: http://web.mit.edu

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2 responses to New Method Harnessing Photons = Increased Effective Solar Energy

  1. Yes, that is Elastic Strain Engineering with the use of graphene, nanowires, nanotubes, nanopillars,
    nanostrips, known as Ultra-Strength Materials.

    http://li.mit.edu/Archive/Papers/ElasticStrainEngineering.html

    http://li.mit.edu/Archive/Papers/09/Zhu09.pdf

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