Rock Music Boosts Solar Cell Efficiency

According to researchers at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London, pop and rock music can improve the efficiency of solar cells.

Before solar households start cranking up AC/DC in an effort to squeeze more from their rooftop solar panels, it should be noted this effect has been noticed only with a specific type of solar cell.

High frequencies and pitch have been found to generate vibrations that boost power generation in solar cells containing billions of  zinc oxide nanorods – increasing efficiency by as much as 45 per cent.

While the application of pressure or strain to zinc oxide materials resulting in voltage outputs, known as the piezoelectric effect, had already been known; the effect of these “piezoelectric voltages” on solar cell efficiency had not been thoroughly researched previously.

The researchers suspected that soundwaves with random fluctuations would cancel each other out; so the discovery came as a surprise.

The sound level required to achieve some improvement is around 75 decibels – equivalent to the sound of chamber music in a small auditorium.

However, Vivaldi just doesn’t cut it.

“We tried playing music instead of dull flat sounds, as this helped us explore the effect of different pitches,” said James Durrant, Professor of Photochemistry at Imperial College London, who co-led the study.

“The biggest difference we found was when we played pop music rather than classical, which we now realise is because our acoustic solar cells respond best to the higher pitched sounds present in pop music.”

The team’s findings are described in “Acoustic enhancement of polymer / ZnO nanorod photovoltaic device performance”; published in the journal Advanced Material.

The study has implications for the development of new, lower cost, printed solar cells that can help power devices exposed to acoustic vibrations, such as air conditioning units or within  vehicles.