Saturday, September 11, 2010

Infrared solar cells

Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory, along with partners at Microcontinuum Inc. in Cambridge, MA and Patrick Pinhero of the University of Missouri, have devised an inexpensive way to produce plastic sheets containing billions of nanoantennas that collect heat energy generated by the sun and other sources, which garnered two 2007 Nano50 awards.

The technology is the first step toward a
solar energy collector that could be mass-produced on flexible materials. While methods to convert the energy into usable electricity still need to be developed, the sheets could one day be manufactured as lightweight "skins" that power everything from hybrid cars to computers and iPods with higher efficiency than traditional solar cells.

The nanoantennas target mid-infrared rays, which the Earth continuously radiates as heat after absorbing energy from the sun during the day; also double-sided nanoantenna sheets can harvest energy from different parts of the Sun's spectrum. In contrast, traditional solar cells can only use visible light, rendering them idle after dark.

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