Baratunde Cola demonstrates the first Optical Rectenna

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Baratunde Cola and his research team use nanometer-scale components to demonstrate the first optical rectenna, a device that combines the functions of an antenna and a rectifier diode to convert light directly into DC current.

Based on multiwall carbon nanotubes and tiny rectifiers fabricated onto them, the optical rectennas could provide a new technology for photodetectors that would operate without the need for cooling, energy harvesters that would convert waste heat to electricity – and ultimately for a new way to efficiently capture solar energy.

“We could ultimately make solar cells that are twice as efficient at a cost that is ten times lower, and that is to me an opportunity to change the world in a very big way” said Dr. Cola. “As a robust, high-temperature detector, these rectennas could be a completely disruptive technology if we can get to one percent efficiency. If we can get to higher efficiencies, we could apply it to energy conversion technologies and solar energy capture.”