There is huge potential in solar power, but our current methods of capturing the sun’s energy are limited as widely used silicon solar cells approach their theoretical limit of 33.7 percent efficiency. Now a Princeton University research team has applied nanotechnology principles to incorporate a design that significantly increases their efficacy.
Led by Stephen Chou, the team has made two dramatic improvements: reducing reflectivity and more effectively capturing the light that isn’t reflected. The new solar cell is much thinner and less reflective, capturing many more light waves via a minute mesh, and bouncing off only about 4 percent of direct sunlight. The new design is capable of capturing a large amount of sunlight even when it’s cloudy, producing an 81 percent increase in efficiency even under indirect lighting conditions.