rectennaScientists at Georgia Tech have found a way to turn light directly into electricity with a device called an optical “rectenna”.

The breakthrough’s goofy name comes from the fact that it is made of both an antenna and a rectifier diode. The technology is simple, efficient, and has the potential to completely change the way power is generated over the coming years.

Solar and wind electricity generation are both extremely complex processes, but the optical rectenna generates DC current simply. Carbon nanotube antennas capture light, which induces an oscillating charge that then travels through the rectifiers.

The design uses antennas made from carbon nanotubes, once again demonstrating their amazing capabilities.

The light doesn’t even need to be from the sun in order to generate electricity.

Rectennas have actually been around since the 1960s, and researchers have been interested in developing them since them. It was 40 years before they could make the rectifier diodes small and fast enough to work with the oscillating charge. Luckily, scientists have stayed dedicated because the technology has the potential to be extremely efficient and cheap.

Progress has been slow, but the technology could absolutely change the energy industry. Researchers are now focusing on harvesting sunlight in particular. An associate professor at the George W. Woodruff School of Mechanic Engineering at Georgia Tech, Baratunde Cola, explains that optical rectennas could make solar cells “twice as efficient at a cost that is ten times lower”.

Image (c) Georgia Tech

 

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