A Japanese research team at Kyoto University has "seen the light," and are utilizing infrared wavelengths to generate electricity, an untapped energy source that accounts for nearly half of solar energy striking the Earth.
Many of today’s office buildings use window glass that reflects or absorb infrared light to keep rooms cool and this is where science comes in. Scientists at the Institute for Chemical Research hope to generate electricity through sun-bathed window glass made from a special material that absorbs infrared light.
Masanori Sakamoto, associate professor of chemistry of nano materials at the university’s institute, and leader of the research team said that the goal is to “replace window glass.”
Although infrared light represents 46% of solar energy, it has rarely been used to generate power for businesses as it was considered inefficient due to its low energy release. However, even if its power generation efficiency and energy conversion efficiency is small, infrared light can provide an extremely large amount of energy in total, experts say.
The Kyoto University team set its sights on tapping into infrared light to generate electricity by developing a special nanomaterial for the project, and is using copper sulfide nanometer particles to make the material after searching for something easily affordable and environmentally friendly.
The material they’ve developed is transparent and long lasting and can be used to generate power through windows if coated onto glass.
Researchers have already successfully generated power with the use of the special material in a laboratory and are now working to improve the power generation efficiency of the material to bring it to practical use, possibly by 2023.
The team’s research is more advanced when it comes to creating hydrogen from the infrared-light absorbing material and successfully raised the energy conversion efficiency to 3.8% in late 2018 when using certain wavelengths of infrared light.
The team’s progress is remarkable as it took only three years to exceed the energy conversion efficiency of less than 1% or so recorded by research groups in other countries that undertook similar projects ahead of the Japanese research team.