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Lyndon Cooper

United Kingdom

Member since October 15, 2012


    The discovery of a revolutionarily different way to generate electricity from sunlight has been made by researchers at MIT. The new technology, which is essentially a solar energy funnel, is able to use a much broader spectrum of sunlight’s energy than conventional solar does, by utilizing materials under elastic strain. “We’re trying to use elastic strains to produce unprecedented properties,” says Ju Li, an MIT professor and the lead author of a paper describing the new concept. The ‘funnel’ in this case is a metaphor, though — it is electronic forces creating the funneling effect, not gravity as in a literal funnel. “Electrons and their counterparts, holes — which are split off from atoms by the energy of photons — are driven to the center of the structure by electronic forces.” But, interestingly, as the process occurs, the material actually assumes a funnel shape. The material is a stretched sheet of “vanishingly thin” material, pushed down at a center point with a microscopic needle, producing a curved shape similar to a funnel. The pressure from the needle creates an elastic strain that increases toward the needle point. Because of the variation in the strain, the atomic structure is changed to the point where different sections are ‘tuned’ to different wavelengths of light. The majority of the energy in sunlight is invisible. The material used is a thi...