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A new discovery about the magnetic fields of light by University of Michigan researchers could lead to a new way of producing solar power that doesn’t require the use of semiconductor solar cells.
The discovery, which overturns a hundred years of scientific theory that assumed the effects of light’s magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored, could result in a cheaper way to produce solar energy.
Traditional solar energy requires manufacturing solar cells that need extensive semiconductor processing. In contrast, this new process would eliminate that expense by using glass, which is already made in bulk and wouldn’t require nearly as much processing.
The glass would be fitted into lenses that focus light into higher intensities not produced naturally and would use fiber to guide it, according to a report from the university.
Researchers said the new technique could achieve 10 percent efficiency in converting solar power to usable energy, which is equivalent to today’s commercial-grade solar cells.