Graphene Could Change How We Harvest Solar Energy

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[Photo: Len Rubenstein, MIT]
Sparked by their recent findings, some MIT researchers have realized that shining some light on Graphene, a carbon sheet a single atom thick, can get those electrical juices flowing. Previously only possible “under very special circumstances,” the new current generating effect could pave the way for better photodetectors, night vision systems, generating electricity from sunlight, and flux capacitors*.

Postdoc Nathaniel Gabor, along with his research team, found that shining light on a sheet of Graphene, split into two regions with different electrical properties, created a temperature difference that eventually turned into an electrical current.

Again, I’m not a scientist, so here’s a quote on how this really works:

“The material’s electrons, which carry current, are heated by the light, but the lattice of carbon nuclei that forms Graphene’s backbone remains cool. It’s this difference in temperature within the material that produces the flow of electricity. This mechanism, dubbed a “hot-carrier” response, “is very unusual.”

Like we said off the top, these findings could help with photodetectors and night vision, but it’s the generation of electrical current from light that has the most long term potential if you ask me. Could we find ourselves putting Graphene on house siding to generate cleaner energy? The possibilities are endless, and the potential for clearner energy based on this technology could be huge.

*We added the Fluxcapacitor, we’re still holding on to the dream of traveling back to the future.


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