The promise of free energy is an enticing one — that’s free as in renewable source, not cost. (This is capitalism, after all, someone’s got to foot the bill.) Economic gripes aside, research outfits like M.I.T. are getting us one step closer to this cleaner fuel future with the creation of three dimensional photovoltaic cells. The team’s findings, recently published in the journal Energy and Environmental Science, demonstrate how these computer-modeled structures, rising upward in an unfolded accordion shape, have been proven to increase their energy yield over contemporary flat panels by up to 20 times in field and theoretical testing. This capacity gain, made possible by an efficient harvesting of sunlight during less optimal hours of the day, could be especially helpful in powering regions prone to overcast or wintry climates. The tech is still far from consumer friendly, though, with the actual price of the associated juice exceeding that of traditional solar tech. With continued improvements to the manufacturing process, however, residential and business customers could very well look forward to a future outfitted with solar towers only a Cubist could love.
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