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So you know how the electricity created by solar panels comes from the fact that when a photon of light hits the semiconductor material, it displaces an electron, and the movement of the loose electrons is an electric current? (If you don't, we explain it a bit more fully here.) The amount of energy created by a solar panel is therefore limited by the number of electrons it can send skittering about. Researchers have successfully replicated the results of an experiment in which certain semiconductors have yield more than one electron per absorbed photon. Cool, right? If the mad scientists of the world can figure out how to replicate these results reliably and begin using these super-productive semiconductor materials in solar panels, it could mean a bump up to over 40% efficiency (as opposed to the current max, which is around 30% in a lab setting and much less in the real world).

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