Navigation Links
A light wave of innovation to advance solar energy

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 phone, whose small, hidden antenna both receives and transmits radio waves in order to complete a call or send a message.

By illuminating the antennas, the researchers were able to measure the antennas' ability to re-emit radiation efficiently, and determine how much power is lost in the circuit -- a simple matter of measuring the wattage going in and coming back out. Initial tests indicate that 95 percent of the wattage going into the antenna comes out, meaning that only five percent is wasted.

According to Prof. Scheuer, these "old school" antennas also have greater potential for solar energy because they can collect wavelengths across a much broader spectrum of light. The solar spectrum is very broad, he explains, with UV or infrared rays ranging from ten microns to less than two hundred nanometers. No semiconductor can handle this broad a spectrum, and they absorb only a fraction of the available energy. A group of antennas, however, can be manufactured in different lengths with the same materials and process, exploiting the entire available spectrum of light.

When finished, the team's new solar panels will be large sheets of plastic which, with the use of a nano- imprinting lithography machine, will be imprinted with varying lengths and shapes of metallic antennas.

Improving solar power's bottom line

The researchers have already constructed a model of a possible solar panel. The next step, says Prof. Scheuer, is to focus on the conversion process -- how electromagnetic energy becomes electric current, and how the process can be improved.

The goal is not only to improve the efficiency of solar panels, but also to make the technology a viable option in terms of cost. Silicon is a relatively inexpensive semiconductor, but in order to obtain sufficient power from antennas, you need a very large panel -- which becomes expensive. Green energy sources need to be evaluated not only by what they can contribute environmentally, but also the return on every dollar invested, Prof. Scheuer notes. "Our antenna is based on metal -- aluminium and gold -- in very small quantities. It has the potential to be more efficient and less expensive."

Contact: George Hunka
American Friends of Tel Aviv University

Related biology technology :

1. NASA develops super-black material that absorbs light across multiple wavelength bands
2. Organic light-emitting diodes
3. Bright Light into the Ear Canal Treats Seasonal Depression Effectively in Two Clinical Trials Presented by Valkee and University of Oulu
4. InterMune Reports Third Quarter 2011 Financial Results and Business Highlights
5. Solar power could get boost from new light absorption design
6. Researchers roll out a new form of lighting
7. Zinc oxide microwires improve the performance of light-emitting diodes
8. Auxilium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Announces Third Quarter 2011 Financial Results and Recent Operational Highlights
9. Steve Jobs Death Highlights Critical Need for New Therapies for Pancreatic Cancer
10. HABIT Study Highlights Home BNP Testing May Allow for Earlier Interventions and Better Management of Heart Failure Patient
11. Sheffield scientists shine a light on the detection of bacterial infection
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... 2016 , ... Parallel 6 , the leading software as a service ... Virtual Patient Encounter CONSULT module which enables both audio and video telemedicine communication ... , Using the CONSULT module, patients and physicians can schedule a face to face ...
(Date:6/24/2016)...  Regular discussions on a range of subjects including policies, ... entities said Poloz. Speaking at a lecture to ... he pointed to the country,s inflation target, which is set ... "In certain areas there needs ... economic goals, why not sit down and address strategy together?" ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... 2016 , ... UAS LifeSciences, one of the leading manufacturers ... Probiotics, into Target stores nationwide. The company, which has been manufacturing high quality ... list of well-respected retailers. This list includes such fine stores as Whole Foods, ...
(Date:6/23/2016)... ... June 23, 2016 , ... ... (Yeast and Mold) microbial test has received AOAC Research Institute approval 061601. , ... tests introduced last year,” stated Bob Salter, Vice President of Regulatory and Industrial ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:6/16/2016)... , June 16, 2016 ... size is expected to reach USD 1.83 billion ... Grand View Research, Inc. Technological proliferation and increasing ... applications are expected to drive the market growth. ... , The development of advanced multimodal ...
(Date:6/9/2016)... 9, 2016 Paris Police ... video security solution to ensure the safety of people and ... during the major tournament Teleste, an international technology ... services, announced today that its video security solution will be ... back up public safety across the country. The system roll-out ...
(Date:6/2/2016)... LONDON , June 2, 2016 ... has awarded the 44 million US Dollar project, ... Security Embossed Vehicle Plates including Personalization, Enrolment, and IT Infrastructure ... world leader in the production and implementation of Identity Management ... in January, however Decatur was selected ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):