MadSci Network: Chemistry

Re: Are there ways ultraviolet rays can be harnessed?

Date: Sat Dec 18 19:49:36 1999
Posted By: Todd Holland, Grad student, Biophysics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Area of science: Chemistry
ID: 944555522.Ch

Hi Mike,
Thanks for your question. I apologize for not getting back with you sooner, 
but I am a graduate student and have been very busy during the last week. 
Your question is a good one, and you are not the first one to wonder why we 
don't develop ways to harness more energetic wavelengths of light. The two 
reasons that first came to mind for me were 1) Most of the UV radiation of 
sunlight is blocked by the atmosphere, and 2) UV rays are so energetic that 
they are actually damaging to most materials. I looked around on the web 
and found a few places where people had been discussing this issue. The 
best one that I found is on a forum at: 

Someone there asked exactly the same question as you, and several people 
posted replies to it. One of them mentioned that most of the radiation 
emitted by the sun is actually in the visible range, and that more 
energetic wavelengths (which include UV) account for less than 10% of total 
solar output. However, there are some people who are working on increasing 
the efficiency of solar power generation and one of the ways to do this is 
to try and collect radiation from a wider range of wavelengths. One of the 
answers on the above mentioned forum discusses this at: 

Another web reference that I found on using UV radiation was at:

This company sells glass panes that absorb primarily in the UV range and 
use the absorbed energy to help heat buildings.

Hope that answers your question. Have a happy holiday season.
J. Todd Holland

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