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Light power to be the next big thing in power generation?

When it comes to renewable energy and its production, the options are limited. Often times, it comes down to solar and/or wind energy, despite there being other solutions out there. Biomass, biofuels and hydroelectricity are often dismissed as a less viable. Recently, researchers at Griffith University (world top 3%) in Brisbane, Australia have discovered “significant new potentials” to further the development of light power.

The problem with light harvesting so far has been the replication process of photosynthesis. Finding sufficient light capturing nanomaterials and metallic catalysts has been problematic for many a reason. The best nanomaterials aren’t very good catalysts, and vice versa. In addition, the materials suitable are costly, as they include gold, silver and aluminium. This has been one of the major setbacks of light harvesting, which has been researched for years now.

Resolving this problem would result in a light-harvesting system (LHS) which could transfer energy with a near 100% efficiency. Such a high number would be completely unheard of, as, for example, wind energy has an average efficiency of 30%, and maximum theoretical efficiency of 59%.

Griffith University’s innovation proposes a mechanism that narrows the bandgap, meaning UV absorption can be extended into visible light range. This would allow for a new class of nanomaterials to be designed specifically for this purpose, perhaps one that can simultaneously act as a catalyst. What is even more exciting, is how the mechanism may be applicable to all semiconductors, making light energy harvesting a sooner reality than anticipated.

It remains to be seen whether this development is as significant as it seems. If successful, LHS could become the next big renewable energy solution since wind and solar power. It has massive potential, and only needs a little push to become functional.