A new paper published in Nature Physics hints at a potentially groundbreaking development: Graphene, one of the most commonly used materials in nano-sized infrastructure, might one day be used to build solar panel transistors. Not only would they be much easier and less environmentally destructive than the silicon and gallium arsenide utilized to manufacture current solar systems, but graphene panels might also deliver up to 60 percent more electricity than current technologies.
According to the MIT Technology Review, the study, produced by the Institute of Photo Sciences in Spain, identifies concrete evidence that graphene solar conductors are far more efficient than those available on the market. However, the uses of graphene could go beyond electrical generation networks. Because of the high level of conductivity this material possesses, next-generation medical devices and cameras may also benefit from the use of graphene.
The experiment involved using a sheet of graphene, which the researchers then passed a series of charges through to see how quickly they would travel. Those involved with the project say that the results were so promising that the Spanish team is already working on a prototype to demonstrate the process further.
Andrea Ferrari, a professor from the University of Cambridge who was not involved with the project, spoke with the Technology Review in an interview and said that there are a limitless number of applications for graphene once scientists work out simple ways to produce the material.
"There is no other material in the world with this behavior," she said simply, adding that graphene "can work with every possible wavelength you can think of."
While it may be some time before you see a graphene-based solar panel, these developments suggest that the renewable energy industry will experience huge leaps and bounds in the near future.