Solar power cells need to stay relatively cool for the sake of both efficiency and longevity, but active cooling isn’t practical; it’s expensive, and may block the very rays the cells are supposed to collect. To tackle this problem, Stanford University researchers have created a new form of solar cell that cools itself. The technique embeds a pattern of very small cone and pyramid shapes into the collector’s silica surface, bouncing hot infrared wavelengths away while letting in the visible light that generates the most energy.
Researchers have developed a new coating that allows solar cells to cool themselves instead of requiring the use of coolants or ventilation, which can be water and energy intensive. Not only that, but the coating boosts power output and extends the life of the technology too. Solar panels in full sun can easily reach temperatures of 130 degrees Fahrenheit and above. Those temperatures lead to efficiency loss and shorten the lifespan of the panels by breaking them down more quickly. Scientists at Stanford have created a passive cooling technology that solves all of those problems and they’ve published their research in the Optical Society’s journal Optica. The society explains that by adding a specially patterned layer of silica glass to the surface of ordinary solar cells the team has found a way to let solar cells cool themselves by shepherding away unwanted thermal radiation.