New technology that cools solar cells to improve its efficiency

Updated Mon 14 September 2015, 08:09am AEST

The technology was developed by Professor Shanhui Fan, research Aaswath Raman and PhD candidate Linxiao Zhu from Stanford. According to Professor Fan, it is essential for the solar arrays to face sunlight in order to function, although it can lessen its efficiency when the solar cells get too hot. The thermal overlay they developed allows sunlight to pass through the material but allows the solar cells to cool down by radiating the thermal energy or heat out of the system, thereby improving its efficiency.

The technology is actually based on a previous work they did in 2014 wherein the developed the ultrathin material which allows “radiative cooling” by radiating infrared heat back to space with no warming effect on the atmosphere.

From the experiments they’ve carried out to test their technology, they found that it cools the underlying absorber (which represents the solar cell) by as much as 55 degrees Fahrenheit while allowing light to pass through. This translates to about 1 percent increase in absolute cell efficiency for a normal crystalline silicon solar cell which actually signifies a substantial gain in energy.

They found that the optimal conditions for the thermal overlays are dry, clear environments which are also the ideal sites for large solar arrays. The technology has the potential for commercial and industrial applications. Future looks positive with opportunities for development of new techniques and machines in manufacturing such type of nano-scale patterns.

Source:

Stanford School of Engineering. "Engineers invent transparent coating that cools solar cells to boost efficiency: The quandary: The hotter solar cells get, the less efficiently they convert sunlight to electricity; The fix: A new transparent overlay allows light to hit the cells while shunting heat away." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, September 2015. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/09/150921153448.htm>.