A step forward for solar energy production was announced today when researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced that they have developed a new converter chip that can collect even tiny amounts of solar energy with 80% efficiency.
This new green technology will be useful in environments where solar is not always practical such as low light conditions. Researchers were able to accomplish this while keeping the chips fully capable of performing normal tasks.
The chips are able to store energy even when the input is extremely limited: in a range between 10 nanowatts and one microwatt. Devices made using this new green technology will be able to use the solar cells to both charge a battery within the device or power the device as it is used. Previously, devices powered by solar energy production were only able to do one or the other. These chips are also extremely useful for devices with very small solar panels, or solar panels that are manufactured to be flexible.
DC-DC converters are used in tandem with control circuits which regulate how much energy is input into the chip, how much energy the chip puts out, and also includes circuits to protect the battery while the device is charging or discharging. There is also a startup block so that the system can boot up even when the output is not regulated. This technology could also be used to make wearable sensors, powered by biological energy, that turn on and off as they need to record information, without having to replace or recharge batteries.
The increased efficiency and flexibility offered by this new green technology may drastically speed the integration of renewable energy sources in everyday life. They will be able to be used anywhere, without the need for recharging the battery. This is a great example of how to use solar energy production to make life more convenient for the general population. If a green technology improves upon the function of older technology, people will switch to alternative energy solutions.