According to the World Bank, renewable and efficient energy are key to overcoming global poverty. Researchers have recently found that carbon-based materials can offer some of the most effective sources of renewable solar energy.

The first source is an all-carbon solar cell developed by researchers at Stanford University. As the name suggests, the cell uses carbon to replace traditional silver and indium tin oxide, which are far more expensive.

What proves most beneficial about the cell is the consistency. The prototype is a thin film, and because of this, it can be placed on top of existing equipment to gather energy. This means new windows or panes do not need to be retrofitted to the new design. Instead the film can simply be placed on top and the energy will generate.

The product is still in the developmental stages, thus not yet reaching the levels of silicon solar panels. This is partially because the carbon-based material needs infrared light to function. While this is problematic, researchers are confident that they can adjust the material to make it a potent form of energy that can be used around the world.

Another carbon-based material has also been found as an excellent steam generator. Solar-powered steam is effective for electricity, but there are other uses that make it ideal for areas of the world whose only natural resource is sunlight. These include refrigeration, sterilization, chemical purification and waste treatment.

Despite its many beneficial uses, it will be hard to pass these on at a commercial level. While it might take a while, it seems that the researchers at MIT are confident about solar energy.

The verdict on both of these carbon-based materials seems to be similar: they can be quite effective but are still in nascent stages. However, the research that has happened up to this point has proven to be very promising. Researchers have looked into several different solutions to each of the unique problems posed.  The big incentive backing it should be enough cause to act.

– Andrew Rywak

Sources: The Economist, Scientific American, Gizmag
Photo: Gizmag