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A better, high-efficiency solar cell

We all know the sun packs some serious power. But when it comes to solar cells, which collect sunlight and convert it to electricity, they’re not soaking up as many rays as you might think.

A typical solar panel puts only 20 percent of the sunlight it collects to good use.

But engineers at The Ohio State University may have found a way to harness the sun in a more efficient, more affordable way that can grow with America’s energy needs.

It’s a huge step that could go a long way in reducing the cost of green energy.

Researchers Tyler Grassman and Steven Ringel are working on a silicon-based solar cell with an efficiency of 30 percent. Their secret: They’ve figured out how to integrate several other materials with the silicon in a single manufacturing process that saves money — which is key for producing solar power on a greater scale.

“Our goal is to take silicon to the next level,” said Grassman, assistant professor of materials science and engineering.

The project, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is part of an effort with industry, academia and national laboratories to develop innovative solutions to improve solar power.

It also improves solar power affordability, as innovations of this nature are driving the cost ever downward. In 2010, the kilowatt-hour cost of solar was $0.27. The goal is to have the cost down to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour by 2020, and discoveries like these are pivotal to reaching that goal.