Ultrathin Film Shows Promise for Solar


Researchers from the Swinburne University of Technology, the University of Sydney and Australian National University have collaborated to develop an ultrathin graphene film, in hopes for future use in solar thermal energy harvesting.

The 90-nanometer material is 1,000 times thinner than a human hair, and when placed under natural sunlight, can rapidly heat up to 160 degrees Celsius (320 degrees Fahrenheit).

According to researchers, the graphene-based metamaterial absorber prototype opens new possibilities in:

  • Thermophotovoltaics (the direct conversion of heat to electricity);
  • Solar seawater desalination;
  • Infrared light source and heater;
  • Optical components: modulators and interconnects for communication devices;
  • Photodetectors; and
  • Colorful display.

Not to mention, the possibility of large-scale films capable of encasing objects to create, “invisible cloaking technology.”

The 2.5-centimeter-by-5-centimeter film consists of alternating graphene and dielectric layers that have been proposed for scalable manufacture for fabrication at a low cost. By fabricating on a flexible substrate, in addition to the robustness, the prototype should be suitable for industrial use as well.

“This is among many graphene innovations in our group,” said Professor Baohua Jia, Research Leader, Nanophotonic Solar Technology, Swinburne’s Centre for Micro-Photonics.

“In this work, the reduced graphene oxide layer and grating structures were coated with a solution and fabricated by a laser nanofabrication method, respectively, which are both scalable and low cost.”

Bjorn Sturmberg, Ph.D., Australian National University, also said: "The physical effect causing this outstanding absorption in such a thin layer is quite general and thereby opens up a lot of exciting applications.”

“Through our collaboration we came up with a very innovative and successful result,” concluded Professor Martijn de Sterke, Director of the Institute of Photonics and Optical Science.

“We have essentially developed a new class of optical material, the properties of which can be tuned for multiple uses.”

The research has since been published in Nature Photonics and has been funded by the Australian Research Council Discovery Project grant.


Tagged categories: Australia; Colleges and Universities; Energy efficiency; Graphene; Program/Project Management; Research and development; Solar; Solar energy; Technology

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