Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have developed a device that could significantly improve the efficiency of solar panels at a fraction of the current cost.
Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have made a stunning breakthrough in the field of solar energy. According to a university press release, scientists have developed the world’s first optical rectenna, a gadget that combines an antenna with a rectifier diode in order to convert light into DC current.
The researchers worked with nanoscale materials in order to develop the new technology. The rectenna is made primarily of multiwall carbon nanotubes with miniature rectifiers attached.
The development could have profound implications for a wide range of fields. For instance, it could lead to photodetectors that could run without the need for cooling. It could also be used in solar panels to covert excess heat into electricity, greatly increasing the efficiency of current models.
Carbon nanotubes serve as antennas to gather light coming from external sources like the sun or artificial lighting. The light waves send an oscillation through the carbon nanotubes directly to the rectifiers, which switch on an off at extremely high speeds to create a direct current.
The device works at an efficiency of about one percent on a small scale, but billions of these tiny rectennas lined up in an array could produce current great enough to provide electricity for every day uses.
What’s even better is that the new materials could significantly lower the price of solar panels. These new rectennas could prove to be a disruption to the solar industry, and could very well play a major role in the energy infrastructure of the future.