Ever notice how you feel more productive while listening to a great song? It's not just you. Researchers just discovered that a certain type of solar panel works most efficiently when exposed to the acoustic vibrations of pop music. Crank it up!
The UK research team works on zinc oxide solar panels, a cheaper, more flexible variant of traditional silicon-based solar cells. Unfortunately, zinc oxide panels are still in the experimental stages, hampered by a paltry 1.2 percent efficiency at the moment. Zinc oxide's trick, however, is that it can form nanoscale rods that generate electricity from outside vibrations—like, say, some pumped-up jams.
Having subjected the photovoltaics to a variety of musical genres, the team found that rock and pop boosted efficiency nearly 50%, likely due to the wide range of sound frequencies involved. Even ambient noise gave a decent increase. While an industrial-scale stereo playing Top 40 hits to a field of solar panels wouldn't be very efficient, the discovery paves the way for cells that generate extra juice from the ambient vibrations in noisy environments. Someday, perhaps black metal could generate just as much power as a ray of sunshine. [Advanced Materials via New Scientist]
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