In 1839, French physicist Alexandre Edmond Becquerel discovered the “photovoltaic” effect, or the natural phenomenon which allows the conversion of solar into electrical energy. Over the next 150 years, this inexorably led to solar-powered satellites, solar cars, and solar-panel technology for domestic use. Among their many strengths, financial savings (after the initial investment), environmental conservation, and minimal upkeep, solar panels always suffered weaknesses inherent in a technology that relies on a giant ball of ionized gas 150 million kilometers away. National Semiconductor plans to address those problems with their SolarMagic technology. Traditionally, the ability of solar panels to convert light into electricity is hampered by shading, dirt, and inherent panel-to-panel mismatch. While National can’t move you to a sunnier area, their new technology amplifies existing solar panels, recouping up to 50 percent of the lost energy. SolarMagic is a per panel solution, and is compatible with all existing systems. National has started field trials with its new technology, and SolarMagic is slated to become commercially available later this year.