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From cell phones to cars, in addition to increasingly connected homes, electric devices are everywhere. But when electricity runs out or batteries fail, their use can become problematic. A Lebanese researcher may have found the solution with an entirely new type of photovoltaic cell.

What if it were possible to use your phone or electric car without ever having to recharge it? To use solar panels continuously, even at night, without batteries? This could soon be possible, thanks to a new type of photovoltaic cell developed by Raja Yazigi.

For the past three years, this Lebanese-French-Swiss physicist and engineer has been looking for a way to capture the energy produced by the sun during the day, but above all by the Earth at night. “During the day, the Earth receives energy from the sun in the form of light waves. At night, it re-emits exactly the same amount, but in the form of infrared waves. The aim of this new material is to be able to capture this energy both day and night,” Yazigi tells This Is Beirut.

A More Efficient Material

This new material is Raja Yazigi’s discovery. Although its composition remains a secret for the moment, it is a synthetic element, like the silicon used in conventional photovoltaic cells and most electronic materials. “The photoconductance properties of this new material are better than those of the silicon used in current photovoltaic cells. For the same unit of energy received, it will generate more electrical current,” he explains.

With the research phase now complete, Yazigi hopes to start synthesizing this new semiconductor material in the near future. Several laboratories, all located in France or in the “French-speaking” region, have been found. “As soon as the investors’ money has been received [at least five million Swiss francs], we’ll be able to get started. Production of the first sample should take two years,” he adds.

A Blend of Several Atoms

Although this new material is likely to cost some money to produce, it will not, in the long term, become more expensive than conventional photovoltaic cells. “During my research, I had a choice of three materials. The two I rejected used fairly expensive atoms, such as silver, selenium, titanium… The one I chose is nothing exotic, apart from its composition. It’s a blend of several atoms, and that’s what’s new. So it won’t be more expensive than current silicon,” says Yazigi.

Naturally, the researcher is targeting a B2B market, meaning that his customers will be companies in the solar energy sector. “It would be pretentious to say that I already have a totally defined plan, but customers could be cell producers, such as the Chinese giant Suntech, which produces conventional solar panels,” he added.

Benefiting Arab Countries

A realist, Yazigi is well aware that, if his invention is successful, it will primarily benefit the heavyweights of solar energy. “It should escape me after a while. I’m aiming for a market that currently generates annual sales of $200 billion, with annual growth of 30%. European countries won’t be able to meet the world’s needs on their own. Players who are already established, such as the Asian Sharp, Suntech and Q-Cells, will also benefit,” he says.

Confident in the viability of his invention, Yazigi hopes that within a few years it will benefit the whole world, but especially the Arab world. “Some countries in the region could produce cells, and everyone would benefit, for their homes, their cars. We could also supply autonomous seawater desalination mini-factories, which would create jobs,” Yazigi said, with Lebanon in mind.