The research shows how graphene can be manipulated to create the most light-absorbent material for its weight made to date and useful for capturing light for use in energy production and to power smart sensors
The material will enable future applications such as ‘smart wallpaper’ that could generate electricity from waste light or heat.
Graphene has hitherto proved inefficient for optical applications, absorbing only 2.3% of the light incident on it – this new technique enhances light absorption by approximately 90%.
The researchers used a technique known as nanotexturing, which involves growing graphene around a textured metallic surface.
“Nature has evolved simple yet powerful adaptations, from which we have taken inspiration in order to answer challenges of future technologies,” says Professor Ravi Silva, Head of the Advanced Technology Institute at Surrey University, “moths’ eyes have microscopic patterning that allows them to see in the dimmest conditions. These work by channelling light towards the middle of the eye, with the added benefit of eliminating reflections, which would otherwise alert predators of their location. We have used the same technique to make an amazingly thin, efficient, light-absorbent material by patterning graphene in a similar fashion.”
“Solar cells coated with this material would be able to harvest very dim light. Installed indoors, as part of future ‘smart wallpaper’ or ‘smart windows’, this material could generate electricity from waste light or heat, powering a numerous array of smart applications,” adds Silva, “new types of sensors and energy harvesters connected through the Internet of Things would also benefit from this type of coating.”
“The next step is to incorporate this material in a variety of existing and emerging technologies,” says Silva, “we e are very excited about the potential to exploit this material in existing optical devices for performance enhancement, whilst looking towards new applications. We are looking for industry partners to exploit this technology and are keen to hear from innovative companies who we can explore the future applications of this technology with us.”