IBM makes solar energy child's play

Technology borrowed from kids' games and computer chip cooling cuts costs of photovoltaic cells.

The cost of developing high-capacity photovoltaic cells should fall significantly, as a result of a marriage between computer cooling techniques and solar power generation.

Researchers at IBM have developed a system that uses magnifying lenses to greatly concentrate the amount of solar energy reaching a cell. The technique allows a centimetre-square photovoltaic cell to capture 230 watts of energy and generate 70 watts of "usable" electricity. According to IBM, this is around five times' the output of a conventional solar cell.

The process, according to scientists at the company, is similar to the way a child might use a magnifying glass to concentrate the sun's rays on to a small surface such as a piece of paper or tinder for a camp fire.

But just as a child's magnifying glass creates temperatures high enough to start a fire, so the IBM lens creates the equivalent power of 200 suns. This in turn leads to temperatures of up to 1,600 degrees Celcius - hot enough to melt stainless steel.

However, cooling techniques developed for computer chips allowed IBM to reduce temperatures to a far more manageable 85 degrees. A liquid metal of gallium and indium compound to dissipate the heat.

"We believe we can drive big change for an entire industry, and advance the basic science of solar cells," said Dr Supratik Guha, lead scientist for photovoltaics at IBM.

Earlier this year, researchers at Cambridge University suggested solar and wind power should be used to run computers.

Featured Resources

How virtual desktop infrastructure enables digital transformation

Challenges and benefits of VDI

Free download

The Okta digital trust index

Exploring the human edge of trust

Free download

Optimising workload placement in your hybrid cloud

Deliver increased IT agility with the cloud

Free Download

Modernise endpoint protection and leave your legacy challenges behind

The risk of keeping your legacy endpoint security tools

Download now

Recommended

IBM ramps up sustainability efforts with Envizi acquisition
Business strategy

IBM ramps up sustainability efforts with Envizi acquisition

12 Jan 2022
LG Electronics joins the IBM Quantum Network
big data

LG Electronics joins the IBM Quantum Network

10 Jan 2022
WeSpire's new analytics tool helps clamp down on employee carbon emissions
business analytics

WeSpire's new analytics tool helps clamp down on employee carbon emissions

7 Jan 2022
The true story behind the IBM Personal Computer
Hardware

The true story behind the IBM Personal Computer

3 Dec 2021

Most Popular

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode
Microsoft Windows

How to boot Windows 11 in Safe Mode

6 Jan 2022
Dell XPS 15 (2021) review: The best just got better
Laptops

Dell XPS 15 (2021) review: The best just got better

14 Jan 2022
How to speed up Windows 11
Microsoft Windows

How to speed up Windows 11

7 Jan 2022