Photo credit: Chloe Doiron Perhaps one of the greatest challenges facing solar technology is wasted heat. One crucial measure of solar panels is how efficient they are in converting the sun’s rays into electricity. So it’s potentially huge news that a team from Rice University has produced a method they say could radically improve solar panels work. It’s not that the scientists have created significantly more efficient solar panels. Instead, they’re working to capture the thermal photons—the heat—those panels are releasing. “Thermal photons are just photons emitted from a hot body,” says Junichiro Kono of Rice’s Brown School of Engineering in a press statement . “If you look at something hot with an infrared camera, you see it glow. The camera is capturing these thermally excited photons.” When the sun transmits heat and light, it also sends an invisible energy known as infrared radiation. Humans have been able to utilize infrared radiation in a variety of ways, ranging from personal saunas to weather satellites . But it doesn’t take up much space in the electromagnetic spectrum. “Any hot surface emits light as thermal radiation,” says Gururaj Naik , who coauthored the resulting paper with Kono and others, published in […]

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