NanoAntenna Electromagnetic Collectors for Energy Production and Heat Management

Dr. Dale Kotter
Research Scientist/Engineer
Idaho National Laboratory

This research explores a new efficient approach for producing electricity from the abundant energy of the sun. A nantenna electromagnetic collector (NEC) has been designed, prototyped, and tested. Proof of concept has been validated. The NEC devices target mid-infrared wavelengths, where conventional photovoltaic (PV) solar cells are inefficient and where there is an abundance of solar energy. The initial concept of designing NECs was based on scaling of radio frequency antenna theory.  This approach has proven unsuccessful by many due to not fully understanding and accounting for the optical behavior of materials in the THz region.  Also, until recent years the nanofabrication methods were not available to fabricate the optical antenna elements.  We have addressed and overcome both technology barriers.

Several factors were critical in the successful implementation of NECs including: 1) frequency-dependent modeling of antenna elements; 2) selection of materials with proper THz properties; and 3) novel manufacturing methods that enable economical large-scale manufacturing.  The work represents an important step toward the ultimate realization of a low-cost device that will collect, as well as convert this radiation into electricity, which will lead to a wide spectrum, high conversion efficiency, and low-cost solution to complement conventional PVs.