MIT’s Solar Funnel Concentrates Solar Energy 100 Times

by , 09/13/10

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Strano’s team is the first to construct nanotube fibers in which the properties of different layers can be controlled — an achievement made possible by recent advances in separating nanotubes with different properties. It is not just the higher rate of concentrated energy that makes the solar funnels a breakthrough — by utilizing carbon nanotubes, solar cells can be constructed at a lower-cost than traditional silicon-based solar cells.

While the cost of carbon nanotubes was once prohibitive, it has come down in recent years as chemical companies build up their manufacturing capacity. “At some point in the near future, carbon nanotubes will likely be sold for pennies per pound, as polymers are sold,” says Strano. “With this cost, the addition to a solar cell might be negligible compared to the fabrication and raw material cost of the cell itself, just as coatings and polymer components are small parts of the cost of a photovoltaic cell.”

In theory, with this new technology, not only could the solar funnels be used to generate power, but they could be used in applications where light needs to be concentrated — such as telescopes or night-vision goggles. The design behind the solar funnel is quite innovative, by capturing the light in a tube, Strano’s solar funnel, also know as an nanotube antenna, boosts the number of photons that can be transformed into energy, but in a similar process to that of tradition solar cells.

Strano’s team is now reportedly working on ways to minimize the energy lost as excitons flow through the fiber, as well as new antennas that would lose only 1 percent of the energy they absorb versus the standard 13 percent.

+ MIT News

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  1. StevenNia January 2, 2012 at 3:26 am

    I fully agree with the eboireau’s comments. SolarDon takes a narrow view of what solar concentration may be, and how it may be achieved. Indeed efficient collection techniques, such as the one described here is exactly what the doctor has ordered for the incredibility high potential and amazingly under explored solar industry.

    I agree with SolarDon, however, regarding the high production costs of carbon nanotubes, at this stage. Just like any other advanced technology, once volume production starts, the costs miraculously go down, faster than anyone can imagine.

    Overall, I give this innovation team very high marks, for thinking out of the box, which is precisely what we need to bring solar energy into reality.

    NIA Energy – Steven Nia

  2. eboireau February 22, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    @SolarDon: the article do not said like you that light is concentrated, but that it “collect solar energy” ! The scientist leader was less exact saying “antennas…drive photons into them” !!

    In fact, it collect and concentrate energy converted from light into excitons. I find this remarkable, but I’m curious about the conversion yield and concentration level that can be achieved. Yet the price of nanotubes and manufacturing such solar device surely will be redihibitive for electric production. Nonetheless, this may be interesting for specific applications! nanotubes can be combined at microscale to surfaces or LEDS, where other solutions are not possible!

  3. SolarDon September 15, 2010 at 4:43 pm

    It may be nice to actually know a little bit about what you are reporting on!! Solar cells do not concentrate light. Typically there are optics the direct concentrated light to the solar cell like Sol Focus ( or Amonix ( or in the case of a Rainbow Concentrator will separate and concentrate the light like Sol Solution (

    Using carbon nanotubes in solar energy is so ridiculously expensive that it is laughable.

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