Sep 22, 2014 - Associate professor of electrical engineering Minjoo Larry Lee has been awarded $2,540,000 to develop dual-junction solar cells that can operate efficiently at extreme temperatures above 750 degrees Fahrenheit. In addition to converting a portion of the sunlight directly into electricity, the solar cells will use the remainder of the light to heat high-temperature fluids that can drive a steam turbine or be stored for later use.
"Our project aims to make a photovoltaic device that can operate at temperatures as hot as the inside of a brick oven," says Lee, who will collaborate on this project with Emcore Corporation and The National Renewable Energy Laboratory. "This is definitely high-risk research, as solar cells have never been run this hot, and they'll need to be both reliable and efficient at that temperature for a long time. But the potential payoffs are huge."
Lee's project, sponsored by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, builds on the technology of photovoltaic solar panels. However, while current photovoltaic panels efficiently convert part of the solar spectrum directly into electricity, they become significantly less efficient as they get hotter—an inevitable side effect of absorbing sunlight. read more>>>