IBM Boosts Solar Cell Efficiency Using Magnifying Trick

Illustration for article titled IBM Boosts Solar Cell Efficiency Using Magnifying Trick

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]

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@nutbastard: Pretty much, yeah. Man is not a logical animal. We see mushroom clouds, and we get scared. We see vast tracts of countryside rendered uninhabitable, and we get scared. Nuclear power will not get a foothold for one simple reason: things may not go wrong that often, but when they go wrong, they go very, very wrong, in a very high-profile way. It may not be a logical point of view, but it's the way it is.