NanoTech May Save The (Energy) Day
The Next Big Breakthrough?
As I posted earlier, I’m relatively pessimistic about our energy future. Since we’re not going to drill-here-drill-now any time soon, I’m fully expecting to see brownouts and blackouts become a regularly scheduled feature of our working day in the proximate future. I was close to betting some Euro-Dollars on it this morning. Perhaps there’s ways to avoid this.
Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have discovered and demonstrated a new method for overcoming two major hurdles facing solar energy. By developing a new antireflective coating that boosts the amount of sunlight captured by solar panels and allows those panels to absorb the entire solar spectrum from nearly any angle, the research team has moved academia and industry closer to realizing high-efficiency, cost-effective solar power.
Interesting tech. We’ve been operating near the quantum level for over a decade with technology used in scientific instruments. That is, we can capture and record nearly every photon of light that impinges upon their surfaces. Your digital camera is an offshoot of this technology.
But “detecting” and “using” are two very different things. For one thing, unless you point your light-absorbing surface directly at the light source, it’s efficiency goes way down. Automating the system to track the light source adds significantly to the costs, and still reduces the energy-efficiency, since it costs energy to do that.
Lin’s discovery could antiquate these automated solar arrays, as his antireflective coating absorbs sunlight evenly and equally from all angles. This means that a stationary solar panel treated with the coating would absorb 96.21 percent of sunlight no matter the position of the sun in the sky. So along with significantly better absorption of sunlight, Lin’s discovery could also enable a new generation of stationary, more cost-efficient solar arrays.
Other issues, like the relative number of photons reflected, vs. the number absorbed (they’re the ones that do work!) play their part, too. Lin’s antireflective coating goes a long way to minimizing that problem.
H/T to the Instapundit for the link.