A new polymer-based solar-thermal device is the first to generate power from both heat and visible sunlight, which could have significant cost reduction applications for both homes and facilities.
The device uses a fluid that flows through a roof generated module to collect the sun’s heat while an integrated solar cell generates electricity from the sun’s visible light.
"It's a systems approach to making your home ultra-efficient because the device collects both solar energy and heat," says David Carroll, director of the Center for Nanotechnology and Molecular Materials at Wake Forest University. "Our solar-thermal device takes better advantage of the broad range of power delivered from the sun each day."
Solar cells used today are typically flat, these new polymer solar-thermal devices feature curved tubes that allow for collection of both visible light and infrared heat from sunrise to sunset. This technology allows these cells to provide power for a much greater part of the day over normal solar cells.
This new device can be truly building-integrated due to a unique general structure and the ability to capture light at oblique angles, allowing it to look identical to roof tiles that are the standard today