Solar cells absorb light from the sun and convert it into electricity. However, sunlight is made up of different wavelengths of light, ranging from ultraviolet to visible to infrared. Light at different wavelengths is made of photons at different energies. Conventional solar cells only absorb a narrow range of wavelengths very efficiently. As a result, a solar cell can only convert so many photons into electricity, up to a theoretical limit of about 33.5 percent efficiency (called the Shockley-Queissner limit).
University of Utah electrical engineers Peng Wang and Rajesh Menon have designed a thin layer made of a transparent plastic or glass that sorts and concentrates sunlight to boost the overall efficiency of solar cells by up to 50 percent. This layer, called a polychromat, can be integrated into the cover glass of a solar panel. It could also be used to boost power efficiency in a cellphone or improve low light conditions for a camera.
University of Utah electrical engineers Peng Wang and Rajesh Menon have designed a high efficient solar panel: