New Nanoscale Antennas Could Boost Solar Energy Harvesting Efficiency to 70%

February 22nd, 2013 | by Petti Fong

Even at their most efficient, conventional solar panels are hard-pressed to make the grade. The silicon solar cells in widespread use today operate at an efficiency of less than 20 percent.

That’s why researchers have been focused on looking for new cell fabrication technologies and solar-collecting techniques that might up their efficiency of harnessing the sun’s electromagnetic radiation.

A research bonus would be finding a way to directly use solar radiation. Currently, it takes a separate mechanism to convert that captured energy into useable electricity in a commercial power grid.

The inefficiencies of silicon-based panels, plus the extra steps needed to make use of the stored rays, are a big reason why widespread adoption of solar power remains impractical.

Rethinking silicon

But a new solar-energy-capturing technique being developed by University of Connecticut and Penn State Altoona researchers shows promise by using a novel fabrication technique that moves away from silicon.

Using nanosized antenna arrays instead of traditional silicon cells to capture the sun’s electromagnetic radiation, the researchers were able to harvest more than 70 percent of the solar power the device collected. At the same time, the antenna arrays were able to simultaneously convert solar rays into useable electric power.

Read more: txchnologist.com — New Nanoscale Antennas Could Boost Solar Energy Harvesting Efficiency to 70%.

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