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Carbon Nanotubes Help Solar Efficiency

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology are seeking to boost the efficiency of solar cells by helping them take advantage of more of the sun’s rays.

MIT scientists are testing solar cells with a layer of carbon nanotubes that “make it possible to take advantage of wavelengths of light that ordinarily go to waste,” according to a statement last week from the Cambridge, Mass.-based university.

Standard polysilicon photovoltaic cells don’t “respond” to the entire spectrum of sunlight, limiting the amount of photons they’re able to convert into electricity. Scientists have said standard polysilicon has a theoretical maximum efficiency of 33.7 percent. The nanotube technology may be used to surpass that limit, according to Evelyn Wang, an MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering.

Cell efficiency, the amount of energy in sunlight that’s converted into electricity, “could ideally be over 80 percent,” she said in the statement.