Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Solar Panels Work Both in the Day and at Night

Idaho (TGW) – Researchers at Idaho National Laboratory are developing a novel way to collect energy from the sun with a technology that could potentially cost pennies a yard, be imprinted on flexible materials and still draw energy after the sun has set.

The new process uses a special manufacturing process to stamp microscopic square spirals or “nanoantennas” of conducting metal onto a sheet of plastic. These nanoantennas convert 80% of available energy, the team estimates, compared to current rates of about 20.

Though this concept is not entirely new, the team has perfected multiple aspects. For example, the nanoantennas are made cheap in the team’s process, greatly reducing costs.

The most promising potential of these antennas is that they could be used to collect power both day and night; power would be collected from the sun during the day and from the earth’s heat at night.

However, there are still some problems to be worked out.

A crucial part of this process has not yet been developed: transmitting or storing the energy collected.

"At this point, these antennas are good at capturing energy, but they're not very good at converting it," says INL engineer Dale Kotter, "but we have very promising exploratory research under way."

Via :: INL Press Release