‘Optical Battery’ Discovery Could Mean Solar Power Without Solar Cells
Researchers at the University of Michigan have made a scientific discovery that is intriguing all on its own but it is the breakthrough’s potential applications in solar power generation that have them excited.
According to Stephen Rand, a professor at the university and author of the paper that discusses his team’s discovery in the “Journal of Applied Physics”, the researchers found a way to make an “optical battery” which harnesses the magnetic attributes in light that, until now, scientists didn’t think amounted to much of anything.
The report explains that light has both electric and magnetic components but, until now, scientists believed the magnetic field effects were weak enough that they could be ignored. Rand and his fellow researchers, however, found that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than thought possible. Under these circumstances, says Rand, the magnetic fields become similar in strength to a strong electric effect.
The research team believes that this discovery could lead to a solar cell that requires no semi-conductor. Since semi-conductors constitute a bulk of a solar cell’s processing, eliminating it represents an opportunity for a considerable reduction in costs.