Flexible solar sheet captures up to 95% of light energy

May 17, 2011

Using a thin flexible sheet of tiny antennas called nantennas, Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the Missouri University Chemical Engineering Department, has been able to  achieve solar energy conversion rates of 90–95%, in contrast to traditional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are only 20% efficient.

PV panels only utilize a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Pinhero’s nantennas capture energy from both the nearmid-infrared and optical regions of the solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum.

Because the nantenna material is flexible, Dr. Pinhero sees it being used in ways that traditional PV cells are not, such as being built into roof shingles or custom-designed for power vehicles.

Once the funding is secure, Pinhero envisions several commercial product spin-offs, including improved contraband-identifying products for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunications.