Rock and pop music increases solar cell efficiency by 40%

Solar cells are more receptive to high pitched sounds including office printers but not classical music

(Pic: Joe Bielawa)

(Pic: Joe Bielawa)

By Nilima Choudhury 

If you want to get the most out of your solar panels, turn up the volume on your latest Justin Bieber album.

Musical vibrations can increase the energy generation in solar cells by up to 40%, say UK researchers.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London say the study has implications for improving energy generation from sunlight, particularly for the development of new, lower cost, printed solar cells.

James Durrant, Professor of Photochemistry at Imperial College London, who co-led the study expressed his surprise at the discovery.

“We thought the soundwaves, which produce random fluctuations, would cancel each other out and so didn’t expect to see any significant overall effect on the power output,” said.

“We tried playing music instead of dull flat sounds, as this helped us explore the effect of different pitches. The biggest difference we found was when we played pop music rather than classical, which we now realise is because our acoustic solar cells respond best to the higher pitched sounds present in pop music,” he said.

The researchers grew billions of tiny rods (nanorods) made from zinc oxide, then covered them with an active polymer to form a device that converts sunlight into electricity.

Using the special properties of the zinc oxide material, the team was able to show that sound levels as low as 75 decibels (equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office) could significantly improve the solar cell performance.

Speaking to RTCC, Dr Steve Dunn, reader in nanoscale materials from Queen Mary and co-author of the paper said: “After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic [solar cell].

“We are now looking at whether the process can be utilised in a range of other systems where vibration and light might co-exist, such as artificial photosynthesis i.e. mimicking plants and alterative solar cell technologies that are produced on flexible substrates.”

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