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Study: Solar Panels Rock Out to Pop Music

  • VOA News

Lady Gaga performs on stage at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, as part of the iTunes Festival, Sept 1, 2013, the first of 30 nights of live free music in the capital.

Lady Gaga performs on stage at the Roundhouse in Camden, north London, as part of the iTunes Festival, Sept 1, 2013, the first of 30 nights of live free music in the capital.

Pop stars Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga can get an arena full of teens rocking, but scientists say pop music can also cause vibrations in solar cells that increase their efficiency by up to 40 percent.

Scientists at Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London say the high frequencies and pitch found in pop and rock music work better than classical music.

The researchers grew billions of tiny rods, or nanorods, made from zinc oxide, then covered them with an active polymer to form a device that converts sunlight into electricity.

Using the properties of the zinc oxide material, the team was able to show that sound levels as low as 75 decibels - equivalent to a typical roadside noise or a printer in an office - could significantly improve the solar cell performance.

Scientists had previously shown that applying pressure or strain to zinc oxide materials could result in higher voltage outputs, known as the piezoelectric effect. However, the effect of these piezoelectric voltages on solar cell efficiency had not received significant attention before.

"We thought the soundwaves, which produce random fluctuations, would cancel each other out and so didn't expect to see any significant overall effect on the power output," said James Durrant, Professor of Photochemistry at Imperial College London, who co-led the study.

"The key for us was that not only that the random fluctuations from the sound didn’t cancel each other out, but also that some frequencies of sound seemed really to amplify the solar cell output - so that the increase in power was a remarkably big effect considering how little sound energy we put in," he added.

Practical uses for this discovery could include solar powered air conditioning units, laptop computers or electronic components on buses, trains and other vehicles.

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