One of the biggest problems facing solar energy and its prospects of becoming an alternative power source is efficiency. Solar cells shed energy when they transmit electrons to an external battery. It makes solar power less efficient than other renewable energy sources and stands as a roadblock for wider adoption.
A team of researchers from Ohio State University aimed to fix this problem. They created a solar cell with a built-in battery. The battery retains its energy better and costs less than traditional solar panels according to the researchers. Old solar panels with external batteries end up with about 80% of the electricity captured. This solar battery captures and retains nearly 100%.
One key improvement made by the researchers was a mesh solar panel. This allows air to reach the battery and plays a part in the chemical reactions that charge the battery. The electrons are converted by light inside the battery and helps mitigate any loss in electrons.
Yiying Wu, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at Ohio State, says the university will license their battery to industry.
Wu believes the device created by him and his students lowers costs by 25%. “The state of the art is to use a solar panel to capture the light, and then use a cheap battery to store the energy,” Wu said in a statement. “We’ve integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost.”
The U.S. Department of Energy funded the project. Work will continue on the battery as Wu and his team look to enhance the battery’s performance with different materials.
The lower costs should catch the eye of the solar industry. Maybe one day soon we’ll all have a “breathable” battery in our homes.