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May 3, 2007

New Anti-reflective Material (Image 1)

New Anti-reflective Material (Image 1)

When coated on a surface, the new anti-reflective material developed by a team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., looks dark (bottom) in contrast to other items coated with anti-reflective coatings. [See related image here.]

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Researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., have created an anti-reflective coating that allows light to travel through it, but lets almost none bounce off its surface. Guided by National Science Foundation-supported electrical engineer Fred Schubert, Jong Kyu Kim and a team of researchers developed a process based on an already common method for depositing layers of silica--the building block of quartz--onto computer chips and other surfaces.

The new method grows ranks of nanoscale rods that lie at the same angle, with the degree of angle determined by temperature. Under a microscope, the films look like tiny slices of shag carpet. By laying down multiple layers, each at a different angle, the team created thin films that are uniquely capable of controlling light. With the right layers in the right configuration, the researchers believe they can even create a film that will reflect no light at all.

The new material--at least 10 times more effective than the coating on sunglasses or computer monitors--is made of silica nanorods, and may be used to channel light into solar cells or allow more photons to surge through the surface of a light-emitting diode (LED).

An example of a critical application for the material is in the development of next-generation solar cells. By preventing reflections, the coating would allow more light, and more wavelengths of light, to transmit through the protective finish on a solar cell surface and into the cell itself. Engineers may be able to use such a technique to boost the amount of energy a cell can collect, bypassing current efficiency limits.

The team's research findings were published in the March 1, 2007, issue of Nature Photonics. (Date of Image: 2006)

Credit: E. Fred Schubert and Jong Kyu Kim, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

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