Scientists Figure Out A Way To Make Graphene The Most Light Absorbent Material Ever!

Ahmed Bilal
Posted Mar 1, 2016
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We all know how astonishing and useful are the properties of Graphene, including stuff like flexibility, conduction and super strength. No wonder it is referred to as the wonder material most of the time. But no matter how amazing graphene is, scientists are still working hard and have been struggling in getting graphene to trap light. This is because the one atom thick molecular structure of the wonder material is naturally poor at trapping light.

nano material graphene

With failure comes eventual success and that is exactly what a team of researchers in the UK got. The team finally figured out a way to manipulate the wonder material and made it something they call ‘the most light absorbent material ever!’ This is a huge breakthrough and will lead all types of different solar based technologies in the future.

“As a result of its thinness, graphene is only able to absorb a small percentage of the light that falls on it,” said nano-electronics researcher José Anguita from the University of Surrey. “For this reason, it is not suitable for the kinds of optoelectronic technologies our ‘smart’ future will demand.”

To get past this problem the researchers had to take a different route, they took inspiration from nature. The unlikely source they took were a moth’s eyes and how they capture the maximum amount of light possible to allow the moth to see in the dark. This inspiration allowed them to greatly enhance graphene’s own light absorbing ability by manipulating it a little bit.

“Nature has evolved simple yet powerful adaptations, from which we have taken inspiration in order to answer challenges of future technologies,” said Ravi Silva, head of the University’s Advanced Technology Institute. “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.”

The researchers then imitated the same thing with their nano texturing skills and they grew graphene around a specially textured metallic surface. The surface had a very helping pattern that directed extra light to the molecular structure of the film, similar to what a mirror would do.

“Nanotexturing graphene has the effect of channelling the light into the narrow spaces between nanostructures, thereby enhancing the amount of light absorbed by the material,” said Anguita. “It is now possible to observe strong light absorption from even nanometre-thin films. Typically a graphene sheet would have 2–3 percent light absorption. Using this method, our ultrathin coating of nanotextured few-layer graphene absorbs 95 percent of incident light across a broad spectrum, from the UV to the infrared.”

The scientists say that their technique, which is mentioned in more detail at Science Advances, could be used to enable solar sensors to be used in various kinds of optical devices. This will help generate power from heat and ambient light which is currently not being done, hence leading to more efficiency.

“Solar cells coated with this material would be able to harvest very dim light,”said Silva. “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. New types of sensors and energy harvesters connected through the Internet of Things would also benefit from this type of coating.”

If this plans work out the way as expected to be developed, we might be able to see how small sensors will replace really bulky outdoor solar panels since they will be able to fit anywhere without any problems. Please let us know what you think about this breakthrough in the comments below.

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