Scientists believe they’ve found a way to make less expensive, more efficient solar cells: Just add silver, the Economist reports. Standard cells, which rely on a thick layer of pricey silicon, are costly. Problem is, thinner cells absorb less red light, reducing electricity output by 20%. Sprinkling a few cents’ worth of silver on the surface could solve this.
Silver particles redirect sunlight and also vibrate, radiating tiny bits of light themselves. The resulting electromagnetic wave, called a surface plasmon, passes through more silicon than any light wave could. The solar cell absorbs 10 times more red light than a traditional one, the scientists say. Their plan won’t make solar power as cheap as that generated by coal, but prices could get a lot closer. (Read more solar power stories.)