Some solar devices, like calculators, only need a small panel of solar cells to function. But supplying enough power to meet all our daily needs would require enormous solar panels. And solar-powered energy collected by panels made of silicon, a semiconductor material, is limited -- contemporary panel technology can only convert approximately seven percent of optical solar waves into electric current.
Profs. Koby Scheuer, Yael Hanin and Amir Boag of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physical Electronics and its innovative new Renewable Energy Center are now developing a solar panel composed of nano-antennas instead of semiconductors. By adapting classic metallic antennas to absorb light waves at optical frequencies, a much higher conversion rate from light into useable energy could be achieved. Such efficiency, combined with a lower material cost, would mean a cost-effective way to harvest and utilize "green" energy.
The technology was recently presented at Photonics West in San Francisco and published in the conference proceedings.
Receiving and transmitting green energy
Both radio and optical waves are electromagnetic energy, Prof. Scheuer explains. When these waves are harvested, electrons are generated that can be converted into electric current. Traditionally, detectors based on semiconducting materials like silicon are used to interface with light, while radio waves are captured by antenna.
For optimal absorption, the antenna dimensions must correspond to the light's very short wavelength -- a challenge in optical frequencies that plagued engineers in the past, but now we are able to fabricate antennas less than a micron in length. To test the efficacy of their antennas, Prof. Scheuer and his colleagues measured their ability to absorb and remit energy. "In order to function, an antenna must form a circuit, receiving and transmitting," says Prof. Scheuer, who points to the example of a cell ph
|Contact: George Hunka|
American Friends of Tel Aviv University