Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors

Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

Home > Press > Solar Power Game-Changer: “Near Perfect” Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles

A new antireflective coating developed by researchers at Rensselaer could help to overcome two major hurdles blocking the progress and wider use of solar power. The nanoengineered coating, pictured here, boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire spectrum of sunlight from any angle, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky.

Credit: Rensselaer/Shawn Lin
A new antireflective coating developed by researchers at Rensselaer could help to overcome two major hurdles blocking the progress and wider use of solar power. The nanoengineered coating, pictured here, boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire spectrum of sunlight from any angle, regardless of the sun’s position in the sky.

Credit: Rensselaer/Shawn Lin

Abstract:
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power.

Solar Power Game-Changer: “Near Perfect” Absorption of Sunlight, From All Angles

Troy, NY | Posted on November 3rd, 2008

"To get maximum efficiency when converting solar power into electricity, you want a solar panel that can absorb nearly every single photon of light, regardless of the sun's position in the sky," said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university's Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. "Our new antireflective coating makes this possible."

Results of the year-long project are explained in the paper "Realization of a Near Perfect Antireflection Coating for Silicon Solar Energy," published this week by the journal Optics Letters.

An untreated silicon solar cell only absorbs 67.4 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that nearly one-third of that sunlight is reflected away and thus unharvestable. From an economic and efficiency perspective, this unharvested light is wasted potential and a major barrier hampering the proliferation and widespread adoption of solar power.

After a silicon surface was treated with Lin's new nanoengineered reflective coating, however, the material absorbed 96.21 percent of sunlight shone upon it — meaning that only 3.79 percent of the sunlight was reflected and unharvested. This huge gain in absorption was consistent across the entire spectrum of sunlight, from UV to visible light and infrared, and moves solar power a significant step forward toward economic viability.

Lin's new coating also successfully tackles the tricky challenge of angles.

Most surfaces and coatings are designed to absorb light — i.e., be antireflective — and transmit light — i.e., allow the light to pass through it — from a specific range of angles. Eyeglass lenses, for example, will absorb and transmit quite a bit of light from a light source directly in front of them, but those same lenses would absorb and transmit considerably less light if the light source were off to the side or on the wearer's periphery.

This same is true of conventional solar panels, which is why some industrial solar arrays are mechanized to slowly move throughout the day so their panels are perfectly aligned with the sun's position in the sky. Without this automated movement, the panels would not be optimally positioned and would therefore absorb less sunlight. The tradeoff for this increased efficiency, however, is the energy needed to power the automation system, the cost of upkeeping this system, and the possibility of errors or misalignment.

Lin's discovery could antiquate these automated solar arrays, as his antireflective coating absorbs sunlight evenly and equally from all angles. This means that a stationary solar panel treated with the coating would absorb 96.21 percent of sunlight no matter the position of the sun in the sky. So along with significantly better absorption of sunlight, Lin's discovery could also enable a new generation of stationary, more cost-efficient solar arrays.

"At the beginning of the project, we asked ‘would it be possible to create a single antireflective structure that can work from all angles?' Then we attacked the problem from a fundamental perspective, tested and fine-tuned our theory, and created a working device," Lin said. Rensselaer physics graduate student Mei-Ling Kuo played a key role in the investigations.

Typical antireflective coatings are engineered to transmit light of one particular wavelength. Lin's new coating stacks seven of these layers, one on top of the other, in such a way that each layer enhances the antireflective properties of the layer below it. These additional layers also help to "bend" the flow of sunlight to an angle that augments the coating's antireflective properties. This means that each layer not only transmits sunlight, it also helps to capture any light that may have otherwise been reflected off of the layers below it.

The seven layers, each with a height of 50 nanometers to 100 nanometers, are made up of silicon dioxide and titanium dioxide nanorods positioned at an oblique angle — each layer looks and functions similar to a dense forest where sunlight is "captured" between the trees. The nanorods were attached to a silicon substrate via chemical vapor disposition, and Lin said the new coating can be affixed to nearly any photovoltaic materials for use in solar cells, including III-V multi-junction and cadmium telluride.

Along with Lin and Kuo, co-authors of the paper include E. Fred Schubert, Wellfleet Senior Constellation Professor of Future Chips at Rensselaer; Research Assistant Professor Jong Kyu Kim; physics graduate student David Poxson; and electrical engineering graduate student Frank Mont.

Funding for the project was provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Basic Energy Sciences, as well as the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

####

About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, founded in 1824, is the nation’s oldest technological university. The university offers bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in engineering, the sciences, information technology, architecture, management, and the humanities and social sciences. Institute programs serve undergraduates, graduate students, and working professionals around the world. Rensselaer faculty are known for pre-eminence in research conducted in a wide range of fields, with particular emphasis in biotechnology, nanotechnology, information technology, and the media arts and technology. The Institute is well known for its success in the transfer of technology from the laboratory to the marketplace so that new discoveries and inventions benefit human life, protect the environment, and strengthen economic development.

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Michael Mullaney
Phone: (518) 276-6161

Copyright © Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

News and information

Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision September 23rd, 2016

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease: Rice-made nanoparticles tested at Baylor College of Medicine may help control autoimmune diseases September 23rd, 2016

Nanotech Grants Options September 22nd, 2016

Coffee-infused foam removes lead from contaminated water September 21st, 2016

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease: Rice-made nanoparticles tested at Baylor College of Medicine may help control autoimmune diseases September 23rd, 2016

PHENOMEN is a FET-Open Research Project aiming to lay the foundations a new information technology September 19th, 2016

NIST Patents Single-Photon Detector for Potential Encryption and Sensing Apps September 16th, 2016

Electron beam microscope directly writes nanoscale features in liquid with metal ink September 16th, 2016

Discoveries

Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision September 23rd, 2016

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease: Rice-made nanoparticles tested at Baylor College of Medicine may help control autoimmune diseases September 23rd, 2016

Speedy bacteria detector could help prevent foodborne illnesses September 21st, 2016

Coffee-infused foam removes lead from contaminated water September 21st, 2016

Announcements

Chains of nanogold – forged with atomic precision September 23rd, 2016

Tattoo therapy could ease chronic disease: Rice-made nanoparticles tested at Baylor College of Medicine may help control autoimmune diseases September 23rd, 2016

Nanotech Grants Options September 22nd, 2016

Coffee-infused foam removes lead from contaminated water September 21st, 2016

Energy

Semiconducting inorganic double helix: New flexible semiconductor for electronics, solar technology and photo catalysis September 15th, 2016

New perovskite research discoveries may lead to solar cell, LED advances September 12th, 2016

NREL discovery creates future opportunity in quantum computing: Research into perovskites looks beyond material's usage for efficient solar cells September 9th, 2016

Researchers design solids that control heat with spinning superatoms: Carnegie Mellon University and Columbia University collaborators discover the cause of vastly different thermal conductivities in superatomic structural analogues September 8th, 2016

Solar/Photovoltaic

Semiconducting inorganic double helix: New flexible semiconductor for electronics, solar technology and photo catalysis September 15th, 2016

New perovskite research discoveries may lead to solar cell, LED advances September 12th, 2016

NREL discovery creates future opportunity in quantum computing: Research into perovskites looks beyond material's usage for efficient solar cells September 9th, 2016

NREL Discovery Creates Future Opportunity in Quantum Computing: Research into perovskites looks beyond material’s usage for efficient solar cells September 1st, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic