Imagine an “optical battery” that could convert sunlight to electricity for a small fraction of the cost of today’s photovoltaic cells.  Well, you may not have to imagine much longer.  Scientists at the University of Michigan may have discovered a breakthrough in solar power technology that could drastically reduce the cost of solar power.  It was once believed that the effects of light’s magnetic field were so weak they were irrelevant when it came to solar power.  However, according to physics professor Stephen Rand, that is not true.

It was discovered that if light is intense enough, it can generate voltage from magnetic effects 100 million times stronger than earlier predicted when traveling through nonconductive material.  These magnetic effects can be bound for electric power production.  Stephen Rand states:

“This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation 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.  Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source.”

So what does this mean?  It will be difficult to make this a low cost power producer because the intensity of the light must be 10 million watts per square centimeter.  For comparison, ordinary sunlight produces less than one watt per square centimeter.  However, William Fisher believes new materials such as transparent ceramics combined with focused sunlight could work at lower intensities of light greatly reducing the cost of solar power and becoming a reliable energy producer.  This breakthrough could have a major impact in the heating and cooling industry!

Leave a Reply