New Solar Power Technology Uses Antennas

Researchers in Israel are taking an “old school” approach to photovoltaics (PV). Instead of the ubiquitous semiconductors found in most PV panels, professors Koby Scheuer, Yael Hanin and Amir Boag at Tel Aviv University’s Department of Physical Electronics’ Renewable Energy Center are developing a solar panel composed of metallic antennas adapted to absorb light waves. The team says the technology, which uses small amounts of aluminum and gold, is capable of obtaining a much higher rate of converting light into energy at a lower material cost than silicon-based semiconductors.

Traditionally, antennas have not been used to harvest light waves because their dimensions must correspond to light’s short wavelength – a challenge that engineers have only recently been able to overcome. In order to harvest light, the Tel Aviv team has fabricated nano-antennas less than a micron long. When exposed to light, the researchers found that only 5 percent of the energy absorbed by the antennas was lost in the circuit, giving the antennas a much higher conversion efficiency than semiconductors.

solar, Tel Aviv University

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According to Scheuer, the antennas also have great potential for solar energy technologies because they can collect wavelengths across a much broader spectrum of light. This would be accomplished by manufacturing the antennas in different lengths with the same materials and process, exploiting light waves across the entire spectrum.

The team has already developed a possible model solar panel, consisting of a large sheet of plastic imprinted with metallic antennas of varying lengths using a lithography machine. The technology was recently presented at Photonics West in San Francisco, and published in the conference proceedings. The next step, according to Scheuer, is to improve the technology’s conversion process, or the rate at which it turns electromagnetic energy into electric current.

Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).

    • I know theu00a0Israeli’su00a0are truly motivated to get this technology developed. They are surrounded on all sides by bad neighbors and getting more people off fossil fuels helps Israel’s security. I hope this technology works out and helps stop/reduce our dependence on fossil fuels.

    • Anonymous

      It renews my faith in the promises of green tech when I hear about innovations like these.