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‘PETE”: New solar energy conversion process to revamp solar power production

Stanford engineers have figured out a new process that simultaneously combines the light and heat of solar radiation to generate electricity could offer more than double the efficiency of existing solar cell technology. The process, called “photon enhanced thermionic emission,” or PETE, promises to surpass the efficiency of existing photovoltaic and thermal conversion technologies.

“While most silicon solar cells have been rendered inert by the time the temperature reaches 100 degrees Celsius, PETE device doesn’t hit peak efficiency until it’s well over 200 C. Because PETE performs best at temperatures well in excess of what a rooftop solar panel would reach, the devices will work best in solar concentrators such as parabolic dishes, which can get as hot as 800 C. Dishes are used in large solar farms similar to those proposed for Mojave Desert in Southern California and usually include a thermal conversion mechanism as part of their design, which offers another opportunity for PETE to help generate electricity as well as minimize costs by meshing with existing technology,” said the engineers.


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