Photovoltaic (PV) efficiency is a significant problem for today’s commercial solar panels, which can collect only a theoretical maximum of about 30 percent of available light. Now, a team that includes a University of Missouri engineer is developing a flexible solar film that can theoretically capture more than 90 percent of available light. Prototypes could be produced within the next five years.
Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, is developing a flexible solar sheet that captures more than 90 percent of available light. Today’s solar panels only collect 20 percent of available light.
Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, says energy generated using traditional photovoltaic methods of solar collection is inefficient and neglects much of the available solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum. The device the team is developing — essentially a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas called nantenna — is designed to harvest industrial waste heat and convert it into usable electricity. Their ambition is to extend this concept to direct solar facing nantenna devices capable of collecting energy broadly from the near infrared to the optical regions of the solar spectrum.