A team of researchers from the University of Michigan discovered a magnetic effect of light that could probably be utilized in the future to generate solar power. This breakthrough can mean the extinction of solar cells.
The researchers managed to make an optical battery. This should not be possible according to the laws of physics and even Professor Stephen Rand said that the equations of motion state that this is not a possibility. Rand is a professor in the departments of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Physics and Applied Sciences. He is also the author of the research paper that was published in the Journal of Applied Physics.
It is said that light has both magnetic and electric components. But scientists thought that the effects of the magnetic field are so weak that these could be ignored. Rand and his team found out that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that doesn’t conduct electricity, the light field would produce magnetic effects that could be 100 million times stronger than previously believed. During these instances, the magnetic effects can create strength that can be considered as a strong electric effect.
If the technology is developed in the future, it could lead to a new type of solar cell that doesn’t require semiconductors and absorption to generate power. With the conventional solar cells, light passes through the material, absorbed, and produces heat. With the new technology, energy would be stored in a magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be made by intense light and it would be able to provide a capacitive power source.
The researchers from the University of Michigan used lasers and glass to generate intense light and separate the magnetic current that would create the optical battery. The researchers hope that this new discovery would lead to new generation of solar power hardware that doesn’t use semiconductors. This would make solar power cheaper. The resulting solar panel will have an efficiency rate of 10 percent, which is similar to thin film solar panels but lower than mono-crystalline and polycrystalline panels.
To manufacture the next generation solar cells, all you need are lenses to focus the light and fiber that would guide it. For both parts glass can do. There’s not much processing needed to mass produce the panels. An ideal material would be transparent ceramics.
The University of Michigan is attempting to patent protect the intellectual property of the research. The paper authored by Professor Rand is titled Optically-induced charge separation and terahertz emission in unbiased dielectrics.