While the costs of renewable energy continue to drop, significant hurdles remain to achieving the level of cost effectiveness that would allow a greater share of U.S. energy to be supplied from sources such as solar. A new device created by researchers at Ohio State University looks to change that by combining a mesh solar panel with a built-in battery that uses a special process for transferring electrons between the panel and the electrode to charge the battery.
The research, published in Nature Communications, shows how the device solves an existing problem with previous iterations of solar technology: the energy loss that occurs when electrons travel between the cell and the external battery. While the current industry standard is around 80% of electrons from the cell reaching the battery, the new design saves almost 100% of produced electrons. The design is patent-pending, and the researchers believe that their invention could cut solar costs by as much as 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 – we've integrated both functions into one device. Any time you can do that, you reduce cost," says Yiying Wu, one of the project's developers.