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Solar panels for the night!

Posted: Fri Jan 02, 2009 11:36 pm
by AccordGuy
Coming soon(-ish).

Researchers have managed to make a nano-antenna array that "receives" infrared light and converts it into electricity (just like a regular radio antenna). With millions of the microscopic antennae built into a mat structure it is hoped that new solar panels can be made that are up to 37% efficient compared to the 15-25% of semiconducting panels. IR makes up about 47% of the radiation received from the Sun and experiments have shown that the antennae are about 80% efficient at capturing their tuned wavelength.

This also means that they can work at night because there is always a load of IR light around, even emitted from the ground and air that was heated during the day. So you finally can have solar panels that work at night.

The catch? Err... nobody has figured out how to make a rectifier that can convert the AC generated at IR wavelengths into usable DC power. The rectifiers may be some 10 years away. It's hoped that some kind of nano-tech rectifiers may be the answer as traditional semiconductor junction types will never be able to switch quickly enough to operate in the 350THz range required (by comparison current mobile and wi-fi radio kit works at 1 to 5GHz only)

You can read the story here: ... ises-solar