PV "nantennas" capture up to 95% of sunlight energy, says U. of Missouri researcher

May 18, 2011
A researcher from the University of Missouri has developed a flexible solar photovoltaic (PV) sheet that he says captures more than 90% of the available energy from sunlight.

Columbia, MO--A researcher from the University of Missouri has developed a flexible solar photovoltaic (PV) sheet that he says captures more than 90% of the available energy from sunlight. He plans to make prototypes available to consumers within the next five years.

Patrick Pinhero says the traditional photovoltaic (PV) methods of solar collection are inefficient at gathering power because they neglect much of the available solar electromagnetic spectrum. The device his team has developed--a thin, moldable sheet of nanoantennas that they call nantennas--could also be used to harvest the heat from industrial processes and convert it into usable electricity. The ambition is to extend the concept to a direct-solar-facing nantenna device capable of collecting solar irradiation in the near-IR and optical regions of the solar spectrum.

Working with his former team at the Idaho National Laboratory (Idaho Falls, ID) and Garrett Moddel, an electrical engineering professor at the University of Colorado (Boulder, CO), Pinhero and his group have developed a way to extract electricity from collected heat and sunlight aided by custom high-speed electrical circuitry. The team is also working with Dennis Slafer of MicroContinuum (Cambridge, MA) to port laboratory bench-scale technologies into manufacturable devices that could be inexpensively mass-produced.

As part of a rollout plan, the team is securing funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and private investors. The second phase will result in an energy-harvesting device for existing industrial infrastructure such as heat-process factories and solar farms.

Within five years, the research team believes they will have a product that complements conventional PV solar panels. Because it's a flexible film, Pinhero believes it could be incorporated into roof-shingle products.

A study on the design and manufacturing process was published in the Journal of Solar Energy Engineering.

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About the Author

John Wallace | Senior Technical Editor (1998-2022)

John Wallace was with Laser Focus World for nearly 25 years, retiring in late June 2022. He obtained a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering and physics at Rutgers University and a master's in optical engineering at the University of Rochester. Before becoming an editor, John worked as an engineer at RCA, Exxon, Eastman Kodak, and GCA Corporation.

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