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Direct Conversion of Light into Work

IB-2706

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ABSTRACT

Alex Zettl, Jean M. J. Fréchet, and a team of Berkeley Lab researchers have discovered a mechanism for converting solar energy directly into mechanical work, thus eliminating the need for capital-intensive energy storage and distribution facilities. In the Berkeley Lab approach, concentrated sunlight or laser light focused on a highly absorptive material capable of converting light energy into heat generates thermal surface tension gradients that move objects across a liquid surface. The technology can generate controlled linear motion by focusing light on different, selected regions of the absorber. The light absorbing material can also be incorporated into specific locations and orientations in a device, such as on the faces of rotor fins, to generate rotational motion.

Although carbon black and multiwall carbon nanotubes can be used in this technology, the Berkeley Lab researchers focused on VANTs (vertically aligned carbon nanotube forests) for their reported ability to absorb greater than 99.9% of incident visible light. VANTs were embedded in a supporting polymer to maximize structural integrity without interfering in heat exchange properties. The VANT-polymer composites were floated on liquids, and sunlight or laser light focused on the light-absorbing material directly resulted in linear propulsion without boiling the liquid.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Okawa, David; Pastine, Stefan J.; Zettl, Alex; and Fréchet, Jean M. J. “Surface Tension Mediated Conversion of Light to Work,” Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2009, 131 (15), 5396-5398. 

Okawa, David; Pastine, Stefan J.; Zettl, Alex; and Fréchet, Jean M. J. “Direct Conversion of Light into Work,” Research Highlights, Zettl Research Group Website, Department of Physics, University of California at Berkeley.

http://www.physics.berkeley.edu/research/zettl/projects/Light2Work/Research%20Highlight.htm

STATUS: Patent pending. Available for licensing or collaborative research.

REFERENCE NUMBER: IB-2706

SEE THESE OTHER BERKELEY LAB TECHNOLOGIES IN THIS FIELD:

High-Efficiency, Self-Concentrating Nanoscale Solar Cell, IB-2338

Ideal Configuration for Nanoscale Solar Cells, IB-2364

Controlled Structure of Organic-Nanomaterial Solar Cells, IB-2365

 

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Last updated: 09/17/2009