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Top Story

Researchers boost efficiency and stability of optical rectennas

The research team that announced the first optical rectenna in 2015 is now reporting a twofold efficiency improvement in the devices -- and a switch to air-stable diode materials. The improvements could allow the rectennas -- which convert electromagnetic fields at optical frequencies directly to electrical current -- to operate low-power devices such as temperature sensors. Ultimately, the researchers believe their device design, a combination of a carbon nanotube antenna and diode rectifier, could compete with conventional photovoltaic technologies for producing electricity from sunlight and other sources. The same technology used in the rectennas could also directly convert thermal energy to electricity. In future work, the research team hopes to optimize the antenna operation, and improve their theoretical understanding of how the rectenna works, allowing further optimization. One day, the devices may accelerate space travel, producing power for electric thrusters that will boost spacecraft.

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