March 17, 2009
Nanocups Will Boost Solar Concentrator Efficiency

You know that nanotechnology is going to, like, revolutionize the future, right? We are all just sitting around waiting for the nanotech revolution to arrive. Nanocups will help cloak electric vehicles and of course feed their solar cells to keep them moving. At least that seems like the bottom line to me.

Researchers at Rice University have created a metamaterial that could light the way toward high-powered optics, ultra-efficient solar cells and even cloaking devices.

Naomi Halas, an award-winning pioneer in nanophotonics, and graduate student Nikolay Mirin created a material that collects light from any direction and emits it in a single direction. The material uses very tiny, cup-shaped particles called nanocups.

Solar thermal concentrators built with nanocups would be more efficient at capturing light.

Because nanocup ensembles can focus light in a specific direction no matter where the incident light is coming, they make pretty good candidates for, say, thermal solar power. A solar panel that doesn't have to track the sun yet focuses light into a beam that's always on target would save a lot of money on machinery.

Solar-generated power of all kinds would benefit, said Halas. "In solar cells, about 80 percent of the light passes right through the device. And there's a huge amount of interest in making cells as thin as possible for many reasons."

Halas said the thinner a cell gets, the more transparent it becomes. "So ways in which you can divert light into the active region of the device can be very useful. That's a direction that needs to be pursued," she said.

Since nanocups will focus light from any direction they could avoid the problem of lost concentrated solar efficiency due to diffuse light caused by airborne sulfur aerosols.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 March 17 12:09 AM  Energy Solar

Paul F. Dietz said at March 17, 2009 6:23 AM:

As described, these devices would violate the second law of thermodynamics. So there must be some catch here. Perhaps they operate only over a narrow range of wavelengths?

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