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Directory:Solar Rectenna by Brian Willis

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Brian Willis holds a rectenna device. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
Brian Willis holds a rectenna device. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)
A graphic illustration of a working nanosized optical rectifying antenna or rectenna.(Image courtesy of Brian Willis)
A graphic illustration of a working nanosized optical rectifying antenna or rectenna.
(Image courtesy of Brian Willis)
"This new technology could get us over the hump and make solar energy cost-competitive with fossil fuels."

Compiled by Sterling D. Allan
Pure Energy Systems News
March 8, 2013

Solar Power Today made the following announcement on February 6, 2013:

If it’s up to Brian Willis, we will soon quite literally be tuning in to the sun. The University of Connecticut professor has patented a technique to manufacture nanosized antenna arrays that have the capability to efficiently convert sunlight into usable electric power.
In theory, these very small antenna arrays can harvest over 70 percent of the sun’s electromagnetic radiation and convert it into electric power. These are called “rectennas” due to their ability to absorb the alternating current induced by sunlight and directly rectify it to direct current. In contrast to existing solar silicon solar panels which mainly work within a specified band gap, rectennas can be tuned to harvest sunlight in the whole solar spectrum which makes it very efficient.
Brian Willis, a University of Connecticut engineering professor, was able to discover a way to manufacture a working rectenna device. The process is called selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD) and it can precisely coat the tip of the device with layers of individual copper atoms to achieve a gap of about 1.5 nanometers, a critical size because this creates an ultra-fast tunnel that enables the maximum transfer of electricity.
ALD can be successfully used to create this very tiny gap, whereas existing lithographic fabrication methods have been unable to create this distance between the two interior electrodes. To put this in perspective, this extremely small distance is 30,000 times smaller than the human hair’s diameter. The appeal of ALD is its simplicity, reproducibility, and scalability for mass production. ALD can also be used in other areas including thermoelectrics, infrared sensing, and chemical sensors. It is hoped that this technology can one day help solar energy achieve cost-parity with fossil fuels.
Willis is collaborating with scientists from Penn State Altoona to build a prototype rectenna and test the efficiency in an effort to further fine tune the technology.

There are actually quite a few videos at YouTube under the search for "Rectenna".


Official Website

Profile: Brian Willis

Dr. Willis is an associate professor and director of the Chemical Engineering Program who joined the University of Connecticut in 2008.

Brian Willis, associate professor of chemical, materials, and biomolecular engineering, in his lab, with an X-ray photoelectron spectrometer. (Sean Flynn/UConn Photo)

In the News

  • Featured: Solar > PA > R&D >
    Solar Rectenna by Brian Willis - A U-Conn researcher has come up with special new technique using selective area atomic layer deposition (ALD) to make the tiny shapes necessary for rectenna fabrication. Its 70% efficiency in converting light to electricity from the whole solar spectrum breaks the conventional Shockley–Queisser limit by not relying on the same mechanism as classical solar cells. It's cheap, simple and scalable for mass production. (PESWiki; March 8, 2013)


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