In the past mirrors and lenses have been used to focus and direct sunlight to increase efficiency in solar panels. One great example of this is the Sunflower by Energy Innovations. New research at MIT has created a way to focus light without using mirrors, lenses, or motors to position panels. Instead, this new technique separates wavelengths and disperses sunlight to the sides of glass just like an LED pipe or fiber optics would do in electronics.
Think about the affect that shining a colored light into a clear piece of plexiglass has. The top portion of the Plexiglases is clear but each of the sides lights up brightly. This type of thing is done on video game consoles and all types of electronics to produce a low energy way to create a neat look. Now imagine taking windows, skylights, or even solar panels and applying the same sort of light effect. You would end up with concentrated light at the sides and edges of the glass structure which could be collected much more efficiently and therefore cost effectively than by conventional means.
What the guys over at MIT have found is that not only can you direct light using organic compounds but you can actually separate wavelengths and then capture each one at optimal efficiency producing nearly four times the electricity generation as a normal panel might produce. The really good news is that this type of technology could be applied to current gen solar panels in three or four years (once it’s out on the market) at a low price which means you don’t have to hold off on current solar solutions to reap the benefits.