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Rocker cell

Solar cell powered by rock

Daniel BuenoListening to the right music can increase productivity. At least that seems to be the case with a special type of solar cell made with zinc oxide, which increases its capacity to convert sunlight into electricity by 50% when exposed to pop or loud rock songs. The performance of the device did not significantly improve when quieter music, such as classical, was played. “These solar cells really like Adele (an English singer) and AC/DC (an Australian rock group),” says nanomaterials specialist Steve Dunn of Queen Mary University of London, one of the authors of a recent article on this line of research (Advanced Materials, November 6, 2013).  “In classical music, there are far fewer things going on in terms of all those additional overtones that come out of synthesized music or rock. The device responds to the wider range of frequencies present in rock music as well as to the fact that there is more energy available in this kind of music.” According to the researchers, it is not just music, but any sound that produces similar frequencies that can, in theory, increase the efficiency of this type of solar device. However, don’t plan on using photovoltaic panels made of zinc oxide—a semiconductor material much cheaper than the crystalline silicon now commonly used in solar cells—any time soon. Even with the help of sound stimuli, the panels tested only reach 10% of the performance levels of the panels available on the market.