Solar Panels Perform Better when Listening to Pop Music

First Posted: Nov 08, 2013 07:04 AM EST

Pop music dominates in the U.S. and it has been proved that tracks by Selena Gomez, Flo Rida and Lady Gaga do have a positive effect on people as it makes them hard working and at the same time boosts their self esteem.  But could the same be true for solar cells?

In a new finding, researchers at the Imperial College London claim that solar panels work harder on listening to music. This holds true for pop music when compared to the classical music.

Researchers at Imperial College London in collaboration with researchers at Queen Mary University, London, discovered that the sound vibrations that make up music can even make solar panels work harder. The high pitched sounds that are found in pop and rock music increased the solar cells power output by up to forty percent. On the other hand, classical music, known for the lower pitched sounds, also increases the power output of the cells but not as much as pop and rock music.

"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," James Durrant, Imperial's Department of Chemistry, co-led the study, said in a statement. "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."

Studies have revealed that applying certain pressure on some materials, a voltage is triggered in the material - called a piezoelectric effect. Researchers, in the present study, showed that by manufacturing piezoelectric materials i.e. attaching zinc oxide nanorods to a polymer, into the solar cells, the efficiency of cells can be increased, especially when the sound waves are played. On testing this theory they noticed that sound levels as low as 75 decibels significantly improved the performance of the solar cells.

The researchers also experimented with dull flat sounds to test the effect with different pitches. They noticed a big difference when they played pop music rather than the classical music. The difference existed because the acoustic solar cells respond much better to the higher pitched sounds that are present in pop music, they said.

The possible devices using theory include solar powered laptops, air conditions and additional electronic components used in buses, trains and other vehicles.

Dr Steve Dunn, Reader in Nanoscale Materials from Queen Mary's School of Engineering and Materials Science concluded saying, "After investigating systems for converting vibrations into electricity this is a really exciting development that shows a similar set of physical properties can also enhance the performance of a photovoltaic solar cell. The work highlights the benefits of collaboration to develop new and interesting systems and scientific understanding."

The details of this latest discovery was documented in the journal Advanced Materials.

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