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MIT Researchers Develop The Perfect Solar Absorber


howtomakeapeAdvances in the field of solar emerge every day, with new technologies popping up on the market all the time. Arguably, one of the main reasons for this is that engineers and scientists have been trying to get closer to creating the perfect material that absorbs all incoming solar light, without radiating energy. But now the long struggle is over. MIT researchers managed to finally develop it.

The new material is indeed perfect. It is metallic dielectric photonic crystal, which absorbs all incoming solar light, and stores it as heat. In addition, it can capture all light regardless of the angle of incoming radiation or temperature. It is made of nanocavities, which can be adjusted in size, therefore allowing full control and tuning of the absorption. It can be produced with existing techniques, and it can be easily scaled up to affordable commercial production.

Now, let’s have a look at how it works. The material is integrated into a special solar-thermophotovoltaic device (STPV), which converts the incoming solar energy into heat. Once this happens, the temperature makes the material glow and emit light, which is then turned into an electric current. The material has the ability to absorb light in a specific part of the electromagnetic spectrum, setting up the perfect trap for solar energy.

The device is highly resistant to extreme temperature and because it absorbs light that comes from different angles, it eliminates the need to use additional solar trackers. It can be manufactured from virtually any metal, which can resist temperatures of 1,000 degrees Celsius (1,832 degrees Fahrenheit). This means that it can be made much cheaper that any existing technology, which is currently produced using the highly expensive ruthenium.

Details about the material and the revolutionary device can be found in the latest issue of the journal Advanced Materials. Of course, this is not going to be the last thing we hear from the guys. They are currently working on optimization of the technology so that it could be turned into a commercial product. They promise to have it on the market in less than five years.

Image (c) Jeffrey Chou

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