One day we will get as far as taking a shower and turning on the heat in our room with the energy our roof has collected over the day. And when I say this I feel encouraged by the new solar-thermal device based on polymer material that Wake Forest University researchers invented.
Standard solar cells with a polymer absorber have only 8 percent conversion efficiency, while this device dares to go up to 30. How does it come up with the rest of the 22 percent? It doesn’t allow for the heat to go away unused: it collects both the visible rays of the sun AND the heat generated by them, called infrared heat.
As director David Carroll from the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University says: “On a rooftop, you have a lot of visible sunlight and heat from the infrared radiation. The solar cell industry has for the most part ignored the heat.” That ignorance costs the usual solar cells to leave out as much as 75 percent of the sun’s energy!
The component doing the heat part comprises five millimeter diameter tubes, which have special oil going through them. The light is captured by these tubes and a spray-on photovoltaic polymer turns it into electricity.
This entire process would then be responsible for heating the oil, which would then flow into the heat pump. Last, for those worried about aesthetics, this device can be designed to resemble roofing tiles used in construction, so that an amateur eye won’t know the difference. Tha’s just in case this device hasn’t convinced you yet!