Blu-Ray Discs Are Perfect For Improving Solar Power Collection

William Valdes mutates on behalf of X-Men: Days of Future Past Blu-Ray release on the set of Univision’s Despierta Americain Miami, Florida. Alexander Tamargo/Getty Images for Allied

Blu-ray discs can be used to improve solar cell performance, according to scientists.

Researchers from Northwestern University in the US discovered that the pattern of information written on a Blu-ray disc works well for improving light absorption across the solar spectrum.

“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.”

Blu-ray discs contain a higher density of data than DVDs or CDs, and it is this quasi-random pattern, perfected by engineers over decades for data storage, that, when transferred to the surface of solar cells, provides the right texture to improve the cells’ light absorption and performance.

Huang and his team tested a range of movies and television shows stored on Blu-ray discs, including action movies, dramas, documentaries, cartoons and black-and-white content.

They found the content did not matter. All worked equally well for enhancing light absorption in solar cells.

In the field of solar cells, it is known that if texture is placed on the surface of a solar cell, light is scattered more effectively, increasing a cell’s efficiency.

Scientists have long been searching for the most effective texture with a reasonable manufacturing cost.

The Northwestern researchers have demonstrated that a Blu-ray disc’s strings of binary code 0s and 1s, embedded as islands and pits to store video information, give solar cells the near-optimal surface texture to improve their absorption over the broad spectrum of sunlight.

In their study, the researchers first selected the Jackie Chan movie Supercop. They replicated the pattern on the active layer of a polymer solar cell and found the cell was more efficient.

“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 findings are published in the journal Nature Communications.

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