Lego design could make solar panels cheaper and more efficient  

srep02874-f1Your favourite children’s blocks may unlock the key to cheaper, more efficient solar panels.

Researchers from Imperial College London with the collaboration of experts from Belgium, China and Japan have designed an improved manufacturing process that delivers more sunlight to the panel by covering it with a microscopic surface of spaced aluminium studs similar to the look of Lego blocks that bend and scatter the sunlight as it hits the surface of the panel.

Previous attempts at a similar design using gold and silver studs were found to absorb more sunlight than they dispersed. The new design improves efficiency by up to 22%, a big saving when the price of manufacturing solar panels is compared to the cost of energy produced cheaply by burning fossil fuels.

Nicholas Hylton, a research associate for Imperial College’s physics department, says of the discovery, “In recent years, both the efficiency and cost of commercial solar panels have improved, but they remain expensive compared to fossil fuels,” Hylton said in a statement. “As the absorbing material alone can make up half the cost of a solar panel, our aim has been to reduce to a minimum the amount that is needed.”


Solar Hot Water efficiency

Dispersing and maximising the suns rays is crucial to achieving a high efficiency rating, and technologies already exist that improve on traditional solar technologies for solar energy production, including areas such as water heating.

Solar water heating systems such as the Solus Hot Water System use evacuated tubes that make use of more than 100% of the available sunlight by utilising the light reflected off nearby tubes.

Solar hot water systems offer a considerable saving on energy costs and are ideal for properties that don’t have the necessary roof space for a solar array.