Prototype fluid cooled solar panel from the Australian National University
Researchers at the Australian National University have developed solar cells that capture both light and heat from the sun. Their new solar concentrators use a fluid to trap the heat generated when the light from the sun hits the cells – the heat then can be used to generate electricity. Their solar panels work by immersing the cells in a cooling liquid, they’re currently using transparent mineral oil – the liquid absorbs the heat and carries it away from the cells. Not only can the heat be used, an additional benefit is that photovoltaic solar cells work better and are more efficient when kept cool. Most current concentrating solar cells use air for cooling.
The team working on the solar panels expect that they will be able to capture up to 70% of the energy that shines on their cells using this dual process. They also feel that their cells will be commercially available within the next three years.