Generating electricity using solar panels is an area where research has been going on for the past two decades. There hasn’t been any modification that was enough to change the way we looked at this in terms of profit or enhanced efficiency. But the discovery of black silicon and the news of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) licensing its patented black silicon technology to New Jersey-based Natcore for the development of a line of products will be giving hope to an improved model of the solar energy conversion technique.
When scientists discovered ‘black silicon’, they were sure that this could be used to revolutionize solar energy generation. The material was discovered when a team ofHarvardUniversityscientists gleamed an ultra-powerful laser (briefly producing the same amount of energy as the sun falling on the entire surface of the Earth) on a silicon wafer, before adding sulphur hexafluoride.
The result was a silicon wafer that looked black to the naked eye, but when examined under an electron microscope turned out to be covered with a massive amount of ultra-tiny spikes.
The substance has since been found to be incredibly sensitive to light, leading to a range of exciting plans for commercialization, including night-vision and infra-red imaging systems.
According to James Carey, co-founder of Harvard spin-off company SiOnyx, “We have seen a 100 to 500 times increase in sensitivity to light compared to conventional silicon detectors”.
The research is only at its infancy as of now, but there is a definite chance for a mind blowing outcome in the near future.