Not surprisingly, there are several ongoing attempts to increase the efficiency of solar cells: IBMs use of concentrator photovoltaics or the University of Delaware's technology that splits light into high energy, low energy, and medium energy chunks are a couple of examples. The latest breakthrough comes from Ohio State University where a new hybrid material consisting of electrically conductive plastic with metals including molybdenum and titanium has been developed that can absorb energy from all spectrums of visible light at once. Since traditional photovoltaic materials are only capable of capturing a fraction of light frequencies, it is easy to see how this new technology could lead to more efficient solar panels.
Like other solar materials, the hybrid version relies on light that frees electrons emitted from atoms. However, in the hybrid, electrons remain free much longer than before. In fact, it emits electrons in two different energy states—a singlet state and a triplet state. Electrons emitted in the singlet state remain free for a time that is comparable to other solar materials, but electrons in the triplet state stay free up to 7 million times longer. The new material is currently in the development stages, but Ohio State has enough faith in the project to set aside $US100 million for the research team to develop a commercial product within the next five years. [Ohio State via Nano Techwire via CleanTechnica via Inhabitat]