MIT researchers boost the power of solar energy

Advances could increase energy output and efficiency, while also cutting costs

Nocera said that he's hopeful that within 10 years, people will no longer power their homes using electricity wired from a central source. Instead, homeowners will be able to power their homes with solar power during daylight hours and use this new energy-storage method for electricity at night.

Last July, MIT announced that its researchers had created a new way to harness the sun's energy by turning windows of big buildings into solar panels.

That technology, dubbed "solar concentrators," harvests light over a wide area, such as a window pane, and then concentrates or gathers it at the window's edges, Marc Baldo, a professor at MIT and head of the effort, explained in an MIT video. Baldo added that the technology also could be used to soup up more traditional solar panels, increasing their efficiency by 50%.

For the research announced last week, MIT said that the team ran thousands of computer simulations in which they tried out variations in the spacing of lines in the grid, the thickness of the silicon and the number and thicknesses of reflective layers deposited on the back surface. The latest effort is the first step in the road to producing advanced commercial solar cells. "If the solar business stays strong, implementation within the next three years is possible," said Lionel Kimerling, the Thomas Lord Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, who directed the project.

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