Dr Niraj Lal, a researcher from Australia National University has used the shape of Buddhist singing bowls as the inspiration for a more efficient type of solar cells.

Just as the bowls cause sound to resonate, nano-scale versions can be made to interact with light in much the same way. Current standard solar cells lose a large amount of light energy as it hits the surface, making the cells inefficient. But, if the cells are shaped like singing bowls, the light bounces around inside the cell for longer.

Dr Lal found that, in laboratory conditions, his “nanobowls” perform at four times the efficiency of flat solar cells.

Higher efficiency solar cells can be made by stacking a number of cells made of different materials on top of each other. Each has its own light absorption properties, so that the device is able to catch a wider range of the solar spectrum.

Dr Lal and his team are now exploring ways that the “nanobowl” design can be incorporated into these stacked structures.