To help in the development of the next generation of photovoltaic materials, researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Physical Measurement Laboratory have developed a new solar simulator, which they claim is “near-perfect” to the real deal. Until now engineers have made use of xenon arc lamps to test photovoltaic materials, which as you can guess isn’t the best way to test solar panels, as they emit dispersed light which is difficult to focus on the PV material.
However, the new system mimics solar spectrum with wavelengths from 450 to 1750nm, which can be focused to an adaptable beam to test a range of photovoltaic devices. The light used here is generated in a laser that emits pulses of several hundred femtoseconds duration that is controllable between 1MHz and 80MHz. The light is then amplified and sent through a photonic-crystal fiber that broadens the spectrum to a wavelength of about 2000nm. Directing the light into a prism and them a mirror, allows the researchers to recombine it in a single beam to be focused onto PV materials.
The new system, according to the research team, can solve a lot of problems that arise in studying new photovoltaic materials. However, the technology is still not perfect, as spectrum still doesn’t include UV rays in the wavelengths of 330nm to 450nm. With ongoing research, the team believes they can fill in the gap and develop a perfect solar simulator that can aid in the development of photovoltaic materials that we hope can end the energy crisis.