While the most high performance classic solar cells only use up to 20% of the solar power falling onto them, researchers from DoE, the laboratory from Idaho, found out a way to capture much more from the Sun’s energy, the invisible light spectrum, even at night.
Their theoretical findings and the computer simulations tell us there could be a 92% efficiency in these solar cells.
The new devices are made out of plastic sheets, a special kind of polyethylene like that used in plastic bags, filled with gold spirals or squares, which represent the nanoantennas.
These nanoantenna-based solar cells harvest the mid area of the infrared spectrum, which is the most consistent in terms of energy. That’s why the new device will gather the Sun’s energy even at night time, when there’s no visible light.
Projects are being made to use the nanoantennas in cooling down entire buildings, by capturing the infrared light, which is associated with any heated object, converted to another form of energy or wave, and there we could have the buildings cooled for free, with the power of heat!
The scientists don’t yet have the technical possibilities to acquire the energy that these devices produce, because their operating frequency is too high for what our technology can do. The converters between this form of energy and electricity would have to be 1000 times smaller than what we have. Anyway, someday it will be possible to do that.