MIT folks like to pay with dye. Thankfully so, because they keep coming up with great innovations for solar power. Most recently is an improvement on the luminescent solar concentrator.
An LSC traps the sunâ€™s rays, then delivers the light onto a cell using a waveguide. Usually, the LSC has a long thin solar cell covered in a plastic sheet painted with special dye. The dye absorbs light, which bounces around inside the plastic until it is transferred onto the solar cell. Some light is lost as heat, and so to improve efficiency, MITâ€™s Michael Currie and Jonathan Mapel use glass instead of plastic.
They spray a mix of dyes and tris(8-hydroxyquinoline) aluminum onto the glass which keeps heat from being lost as the light bounces around inside. Using the idea of layering that MITers have been messing with, the pair improved the efficiency even further by using two layers of dyed glass, the lower system absorbing whatever the first doesnâ€™t catch. The pairâ€™s improvements reportedly improve efficiency ten times more than conventional solar cells.
While the product is only stable for about 3 months, theyâ€™re working to improve that time frame so that the LSCs can be used commercially within about three years, going through MIT spin-off company Covalent Solar, run by Currie and two colleagues.
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