SToday's silicon solar panels absorb about two-thirds of the light that reaches them, but a new nanocoating developed by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute gives most run-of-the-mill solar panels the ability to capture almost every drop of sunlight. Not only does it grab 96.2% of the sun's rays, but it can do it from any angle, so there's no need for panels to waste energy by mechanically tracking the sun in the sky. This is happy leap forward for solar technology, whose quest for cheapness has been long and hard. I said it's one coating, but it's actually seven, each between 50 and 100 nanometers thick, made of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide nanorods that can be vaporized and deposited on "nearly any photovoltaic materials." PhysOrg compares the tightly hugging nanorods to "a dense forest where sunlight is 'captured' between the trees." There's no word yet on the deployment of this process—it's barely a year since its chalkboard conception—but this efficiency means lower cost to acquire energy, which means solar power is more viable than ever as an alternative to fossil fuels. I hate pigeonholing myself as one of those wide-eyed Trek fans who thinks that alt energy will radically change the way we live our lives and help us get on with impulse drives, synthehol and breathable spandex formalwear, but seriously, this is my kind of breakthrough. [PhysOrg via Kurzweil AI]
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