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US scientists develop underwater solar panels

8th Jun 2012

The idea of solar panels that can work underwater may seem like something from a science fiction movie, but researchers in the US claim to be one step closer to making it a reality.

Experts based at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) Electronics Science and Technology Division have been working on solar cells that can generate solar energy at depths of up to nine metres.

"Although water absorbs sunlight, the technical challenge is to develop a solar cell that can efficiently convert these underwater photons to electricity," said Phillip Jenkins, head of the NRL's imagers and detectors section.

The team acknowledged that although the absolute intensity of solar radiation is reduced underwater, there are still opportunities for higher conversion efficiency.

Here comes the technical bit - researchers found that by using high-quality gallium indium phosphide cells, solar energy can be created in even the least optimal conditions.

If this technology is still working perfectly after rigorous testing, who knows where it could lead.

We could soon find ourselves with solar powered submarines and all sorts of underwater equipment - the idea might not be so far-fetched after all!

Posted by Mike Peacock


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