Today's solar panels typically collect only 20% of the available light. Patrick Pinhero, associate professor in the MU Chemical Engineering Department, said he a way to extract electricity from the collected heat and sunlight using special high-speed electrical circuitry in collaboration with colleagues t the University of Colorado.
"Our overall goal is to collect and utilize as much solar energy as is theoretically possible and bring it to the commercial market in an inexpensive package that is accessible to everyone," Pinhero said. "If successful, this product will put us orders of magnitudes ahead of the current solar energy technologies we have available to us today." According to Pinhero, today's photovoltaic methods of sunlight collection are generally inefficient and neglect much of the available solar electromagnetic spectrum.
While he did not provide specifics, the university stated that the scientist developed a nantenna - a thin, moldable sheet of small antennas - that can "harvest the heat from industrial processes and convert it into usable electricity." In the near future, this idea is intended to be used for a direct solar facing nantenna device that is able to collect "solar irradiation in the near infrared and optical regions of the solar spectrum."
Pinhero believes that such 90-95% efficient solar panels could be built and offered to be manufactured into products such as roof shingles or automobiles. The scientist is now looking for funding to develop and mature the technology.