Solar panels are an incredible innovation in energy tech, but the panels are way less efficient than they could be because solar panels have a problem: heat.
More specifically, waste heat, or energy that’s lost while converting the sun’s energy into electricity.
But new technology—made possible by carbon nanotubes—might be just the thing that takes solar panels to the next level when it comes to energy technologies.
One of the biggest issues facing solar panel efficiency is the fact that we can lose approximately 70% of the electromagnetic radiation that hits a solar cell because of a mismatch in energy levels. This paired with problems like the resistance that electrons face passing through conducting materials makes scientists think that in the future, even with improvements to the existing tech, we’re looking at a maximum, peak efficiency of solar panels at 29%.
When looking at why solar panels lose so much energy, the researchers behind this new tech saw that the radiation from the sun that couldn’t be absorbed by the solar panels was bouncing off as heat and they wanted to harness it.
The big question: How do we turn this heat into electricity?
Learn more about how this new solar technology works and how the solar panels could change the way we think about the future of the energy grid in this episode of Elements.