Solar panels normally come in two different types. Photovoltaic panels that turn the sun's rays into electrical power, and thermal collectors that heat water using the sun then use it to heat a building or to provide hot water. Now those two technologies are coming together, in a hybrid solar tube that provides the best of both worlds.
The Virtu Tube from Britain's Naked Energy puts the photovoltaic panels inside a vacuum tube, where Naked Energy's patented "thermosyphon" technology pumps away heat to keep the panels at their peak efficiency. The extracted heat can then be used for other purposes.
Imperial College in London tested the hybrid tubes, and determined that the temperature regulation provided by the thermosyphon made the panels up to 46 percent more efficient than a typical photovoltaic panel of the same size.
Naked Energy's next goal is to maximize the tube's heat transfer function for even more efficiency. This all sounds great, but there's no word yet on when any of this will turn into a commercial product we can actually buy.