Thought Food

Solar Power: Building a Better Suntrap

Researchers are on a mission to improve the efficiency of solar power. To transform sunlight into electricity, sunlight can be converted directly using a photovoltaic cell. Another way to achieve this is to use the heat from sunlight to boil water, and then drive a turbine with the steam created. In theory, a third way also exists: using the heat from the sunlight directly. This would be by far the most efficient way, but unfortunately, devices that turn sunlight into heat and then into electricity in this way do not reach high enough temperatures when exposed to direct sunlight. Recently, however, Peter Bermel of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his colleagues have indicated that they may have found a way round this difficulty… by creating, quite literally, a suntrap.

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