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October 2013

Scientists develop heat-resistant materials that could vastly improve solar cell efficiency

Scientists have created a heat-resistant thermal emitter, an element used in specialized solar cells, that could significantly improve the efficiency of the cells. The novel component is designed to convert heat from the sun into infrared light, which can than be absorbed by solar cells to make electricity – a technology known as thermophotovoltaics.

Unlike earlier prototypes that fell apart before temperatures reached 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit (1,200 degrees Celsius), the new thermal emitter remains stable at temperatures as high as 2,500 F (1,400 C).

"This is a record performance in terms of thermal stability and a major advance for the field of thermophotovoltaics," said Shanhui Fan, a professor of electrical engineering at Stanford University. Fan and his colleagues at the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign (Illinois) and North Carolina State University collaborated on the project. Their results are published in the Oct. 16 edition of the journal Nature Communications.



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