Researchers in Abu Dhabi Power Forward with New Solar Innovations

ABU DHABI : Researchers in Abu Dhabi have developed a device that could significantly improve the efficiency with which light is absorbed in the solar-power industry.

The aim of work at the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology is to ensure that a greater range of light wavelengths are absorbed and turned into electricity.

Carlo Maragliano, a PhD student, and Dr Matteo Chiesa, associate professor of mechanical and materials science engineering, worked with a researcher in Italy to create the device.

The “spectral splitting concentrator” is, Mr Maragliano said, a combination of a prism, which separates sunlight’s various colours or wavelengths, and a lens, which concentrates light, enabling it to “harness a greater amount of energy from the sun”.

With standard silicon-based photovoltaic cells, there is inefficient absorption of the shorter blue and green wavelengths of light, while no infrared light is absorbed, so overall efficiency is just 15 to 18 per cent.

With the new device, with solar cells matched for the various parts of the light spectrum, the aim is to achieve efficiency closer to the 38 per cent theoretical maximum.

The researchers said the device was cost effective, being made from inexpensive polycarbonate, a type of plastic, and could be produced economically in large numbers by using injection moulding.

It could, they said, cost a fraction of the price of the current system, concentrator photovoltaics (CPV), which uses more expensive types of solar cells and has to track the sun so that light is focused on cells.

Dr Chiesa said the invention made use of the fact that layering solar cells “dramatically” improves their efficiency, and that concentrating sunlight generates more power.

“We created a device that can do both in an economical and convenient way without the requirements of a CPV-type mechanical tracking system or complex layering,” he said.

The work is taking place as other researchers at the Masdar Institute look at how to improve types of batteries that can store electricity produced by solar power.

The UAE’s solar-power sector is growing fast, with 1,000 jobs forecast to be created over the next two years.


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