An anonymous reader tips a University of Michigan news release about the creation of what's being called an "optical battery" that could lead to the use of solar power without traditional solar cells (abstract). Quoting: "Light has electric and magnetic components. Until now, scientists thought the effects of the magnetic field were so weak that they could be ignored. What Rand and his colleagues found is that at the right intensity, when light is traveling through a material that does not conduct electricity, the light field can generate magnetic effects that are 100 million times stronger than previously expected. Under these circumstances, the magnetic effects develop strength equivalent to a strong electric effect. 'This could lead to a new kind of solar cell without semiconductors and without absorption to produce charge separation,' Rand said. 'In solar cells, the light goes into a material, gets absorbed and creates heat. Here, we expect to have a very low heat load. Instead of the light being absorbed, energy is stored in the magnetic moment. Intense magnetization can be induced by intense light and then it is ultimately capable of providing a capacitive power source.'"
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