Jackie Chan might be taking on his biggest challenge yet—and he doesn’t even have to act. That’s because researchers at Northwestern University exploring how to increase the performance of solar cells by changing their surface coating to increase light absorption. What they found was that the data pattern on the Blu-ray disc for “Supercop 3”, a Jackie Chan movie, efficiently increased the light absorption of solar cells.
“We had a hunch that Blu-ray discs might work for improving solar cells, and, to our delight, we found the existing patterns are already very good,” said Jiaxing Huang, a materials chemist and an associate professor of materials science and engineering in the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science. “It’s as if electrical engineers and computer scientists developing the Blu-ray technology have been subconsciously doing our jobs, too.”
As a way to increase the efficiency of solar cells researchers have looked to change the surface of solar cells by adding peaks and values to the micro surface that covers the cell itself. What they’ve found in the past is that changing the surface helps but the most effective means isn’t a random pattern or a too-ordered pattern. “We found a random pattern or texture does work better than no pattern, but a Blu-ray disc pattern is best of all,” Huang said.
The high density data clusters stored on Blu-ray discs rather than DVDs or CDs create an ideal quasi-random pattern. This pattern, Huang and his fellow researchers, among them Dongning Guo, Cheng Sun, Chen Wang and Alexander Smith, found that transferring the Blu-ray pattern to the surface of solar cells provides a quasi-random texture that improves the cells’ light absorption and performance, the university said.
“I wondered, why did it work? If you don’t understand why, it’s not good science,” Huang said. His wife, Shaorong Liu, a database engineer at IBM, thought it might be related to data compression on Blu-ray discs. Huang and his colleagues found that was the case and that the binary codes stored on Blu-ray discs create islands and pits to store information create a pattern that also gives solar cells a near-optimal surface texture. The pits and islands effectively scattered light, increasing solar cell absorption.
It’s not just Jackie Chan’s Blu-ray that can save the world, either. The researchers found that anything from “Family Guy” to “Supercop” could increase the efficiency by 21.8 percent.
The researchers published their finding earlier this week in the journal Nature Communications under the title of “Repurposing Blu-ray Movie Discs as Quasi-random Nanoimprinting Templates for Photon Management.”Tweet