Scientists at U-M have made a discovery that could possibly convert sunlight into electricity at costs far below those for today's photovoltaic cells. They envision an "optical battery" of sorts.
"The breakthrough – unveiled Friday in a scientific paper in the Journal of Applied Physics
– shows that if light is intense enough, it can, when traveling through nonconductive material, generate voltage from magnetic effects 100 million times stronger than earlier expected. Such magnetic effects produce a strong electric field that can be harnessed for electric power production, Dr. Rand and Mr. Fisher say.
“This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation,” Rand said in a statement. “In solar cells, the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment."
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