IBM's researchers have been busily beavering away trying to improve solar power technology, and they've just come up with a neat solution that uses a surprisingly simple technique: concentrator photovoltaics. In much the same way as kids use magnifying glasses to focus the sun on things to burn them (we all did that, didn't we?) the IBM boffins combined a large lens and a photovoltaic cell to focus a record-breaking 230 watts solar energy per square centimeter. That ends up producing about 70 watts of useful electric power, effectively creating a solar cell about five times more powerful than the cells commonly used in solar farms.

The biggest trick was in working out how to cool the chips from all the extra thermal input created by the focused sunlight. To do this, IBM borrowed ideas from its own research into a liquid metal cooling system developed for semiconductors and used a thin liquid metal gallium-indium compound to bind the chip to a cooling block.

This new high power technique could of course result in smaller solar farms, or higher energy output from existing systems. Best of all, it's potentially a fairly low cost solution, which can only be a good thing for the environment. [Physorg]