Novel combination ensures entire solar spectrum harnessed

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Posted on August 29, 2013
Novel combination ensures entire solar spectrum harnessed

Novel combination ensures entire solar spectrum harnessed
Open microalgal ponds like this could be situated underneath solar panels in the new approach which willl maximise solar conversion in less space. Credit: Texas A&M Agrilife

Murdoch University researchers have dramatically increased the conversion efficiency of solar energy by the novel pairing of algae biomass and selective thin film solar panels.

By modelling different translucent solar panel wavelength absorbencies and situating algae ponds beneath the panels, researchers were able to find algae species which thrived in the resulting ‘unused’ solar spectrum.

Photosynthesis only uses part of the solar spectrum within the range of 400–700nm (mostly blue and red spectrum) and translucent solar panels can be designed to absorb the spectrum outside these parameters to produce electricity.

Algae R&D Centre and School of Veterinary and Life Science’s Dr Navid Moheimani says while the purpose of the design is to capture the entire light spectrum, a secondary outcome was also a reduction in algae pond evaporation.

“Considering the shortage of freshwater in WA, we can only use seawater in our algae cultivation ponds for filling the pond and evaporative make up,” he says.

The solar panels and ponds are likely to be situated in WA’s north-west, one of the world’s best areas for solar production, however evaporation rates average at 3200mm per year.

“Evaporation will result in an increase in salinity over time [100 days to increase the salinity by four-fold in the pond] and limit the number of potential species for cultivation.

Read more at: Phys.org