We’ve all heard of hydro-electric power, where electricity is generated by turbines propelled by falling water. But now electrical power’s association with water may not have to be exclusively with waterfalls or other flowing water; the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has made strides in placing electricity-producing solar panels underwater, according to TreeHugger.
Capturing solar power through water has been problematic in the past because water absorbs much of the spectrum of sunlight. However, Gizmag reports, “Gallium indium phosphide (GaInP) cells are highly efficient at converting light within the less intense blue-green wavelength into electricity. When used at depth underwater, GaInP cells receive nothing but the wavelength that they are optimized for, allowing them to perform much better than regular silicon cells under the same conditions.”
In laymen’s terms, this means that solar panels can be created that use the available blue-green wavelength of light, regardless of water’s general absorption of the entire spectdrum. “Although water absorbs sunlight, the technical challenge is to develop a solar cell that can efficiently convert these underwater photons to electricity,” said Phillip Jenkins, head of the Naval Research Lab’s Imagers and Detectors Section.
So far, scientists have created a solar cell that can generate 7 watts per square meter when it’s placed no deeper than about 30 feet underwater. This is useful to power underwater apparatus and sensing equipment for now — but who knows? If they perfect the panels, you might be able to plug something in while on a scuba dive in the future.