Energy Update: New Solar Cells Get the Blues in a Good Way

February 4, 2014 – A new solar cell technology has been invented by United States Department of Energy scientists in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin.

The cell uses an inexpensive material to capture and convert solar energy from the blue part of the light spectrum.  What makes this exciting? Blue photons contain excess energy that conventional solar cells are incapable of exploiting. Instead the energy is lost as heat.

The new solar cells use a thin nanocrystalline material which they manufacture in a process called photonic curing. The material contains copper indium selenide which is used in the production of some thin-film semiconductors.

To measure the efficiency of these new solar cells the scientists looked at multiexcitons, defined as pairs containing an electron and a positively-charged partner that is referred to as a “hole.”

Up until now the most efficient solar cells convert 34% of the energy from light into electricity.  Taking advantage of the excess energy from blue photons will exceed that limit dramatically.

For the solar industry this means they soon may be singing the blues and delivering a product with much greater pop, a welcome innovation.


blue photon solar cell

Len Rosen lives in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a researcher and writer who has a fascination with science and technology. He is married with a daughter who works in radio, and a miniature red poodle who is his daily companion on walks of discovery. More...