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Power Science

New Metamaterial Means More Efficient Solar Cells 94

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the harness-this-stupid-sun dept.
ElectricSteve writes "Metamaterials are man-made substances designed to do some very weird things that natural materials don't. The path of a beam of light through a natural material like glass is predictable, but scientists from the California Institute of Technology have engineered an optical material that bends light in the wrong direction. This new negative-index metamaterial (NIM) could have several valuable uses including invisibility cloaking, superlensing (imaging nano-scale objects using visible light), and improved light collection in solar cells."
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New Metamaterial Means More Efficient Solar Cells

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  • Burying the lede (Score:5, Informative)

    by jfengel (409917) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @10:34AM (#32169064) Homepage Journal

    As usual with "SOLAR CELLS HERE TOMORROW!" stories, the actual important news in the story is buried around paragraph six.

    This is not the first time such a material has been developed, but it is the first one that can handle light of any polarity, from any angle. It also works in the blue part of the visible spectrum, making it the first NIM to operate at visible frequencies.

    Ah, thank you. As usual, a nice, modestly useful development of moderate interest to those who study materials engineering, and of essentially zero interest to anybody else. (Well, except for us science nerds, who shouldn't have to be sold the fluff, but it's what we get anyway.)

    But since press releases attract more attention than journal articles, at least when they promise free power, you put FREE SOLAR ENERGY at the top and actual scientific research gets a paragraph somewhere in the middle.

  • Re:Wrong title... (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @11:03AM (#32169464)

    Please explain to me why the title of this news post is "New Metamaterial Means More Efficient Solar Cells" instead of "New Metamaterial Means Kickass Invisibility Cloak"?

    Both are equally stupid, but more sexy than "New Metemeterial has Negative Index of Refraction for Visible Light".

  • Re:I wonder... (Score:3, Informative)

    by khayman80 (824400) on Tuesday May 11, 2010 @05:20PM (#32175096) Homepage Journal

    I'm still holding out for 1-way glass/mirrors that actually WORK AS EXPECTED. An ex-gf's father, who is an architect, told me about this super-modern house in the town where he studied that was clad with one-way mirrors. However, after dark, the inside lights would turn them quite see-through. Favourite hang-out for students was by the bedroom wall, no x-ray glasses needed.

    I said something similar to my undergrad physics advisor while working in experimental optics. He said that "true" one-way glass would probably break the laws of thermodynamics. Imagine a box filled with light, and split it in half with a pane of one-way glass. One side would become dark and the other would become twice as bright. It would have to act like Maxwell's demon, which isn't physically possible without energy input.

    All "one-way mirrors" in the world are actually just windows with partial mirroring in both directions. The "one-way" part is determined entirely by which side has brighter ambient light. That's why interrogation rooms have bright lights, whereas the viewing room for cops and witnesses is usually very dimly lit.

Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.

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