Research collaboration creates an ultra-high solar energy conversion system
Rick Kubetz, Engineering at Illinois
- Illinois researchers have developed advanced technology supporting an ultra-high - greater than 65 percent - solar energy conversion system.
- With the current emphasis on the fast-track development of clean-energy projects to combat global warming, these advancements provide a head start towards marketable solutions.
- The new design - developed under a four-year, $400,000 grant from AMI Research and Development - is founded on antenna array principles, whereby a wedge prism serves as a continuous phased array coupler to a waveguide.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, in collaboration with AMI Research and Development, LLC (AMI), have developed advanced technology supporting an ultra-high — greater than 65 percent — solar energy conversion system.
With the current emphasis on the fast-track development of clean-energy projects to combat global warming, these advancements provide a head start towards marketable solutions.
The new design — developed under a four-year, $400,000 grant from AMI — is founded on antenna array principles, whereby a wedge prism serves as a continuous phased array coupler to a waveguide.
The result is phase-coherent concentration in the waveguide to enable input angular dependence, coupling of the evanescent field from the prism to the waveguide, and gap-dependent theoretical monochromatic efficiencies of up to 96 percent. Using this coupling mechanism as a spectrally broadband, full-aperture, coherent, light concentrator is unique in functionality and application as detailed in two recent patents.
Illinois researchers used advanced photolithography and thin-film deposition techniques to fabricate a tunable, multi-index layered silicon oxynitride (SiON) wideband waveguide and a selective area solar cell.
“The rectennas can be fabricated on bare silicon wafers, greatly reducing cost compared to a conventional photovoltaic cell,” said graduate student Ardy Winoto, the project’s primary researcher. “The idea is to fabricate an array of rectennas that resonate at different wavelengths to cover the entire solar radiation spectrum.”
“When integrated together, the solar cell should yield the ultra-high efficiencies of greater than 65 percent,” Feng said. The higher efficiency has the added advantage of lower installation costs, plus, the device works at room temperature, an important trait for commercialization.
Following the recent International Climate Summit in Paris, the focus has intensified for technologies that permit better use of clean energy from wind and solar.
“Our research seems to fit well,” said Feng, who is affiliated with the Micro and Nanotechnology Laboratory. “We have already been working on high-efficiency green energy device conversion for four years, earning two patents in the process. It appears that the international community now has the will to turn such research into viable, marketable solutions. It is a very exciting time.”