Blu-ray discs are one of the best ways to store high-definition TV shows and movies, thanks to their high-density data storage capacity. A new study has found that those same Blu-ray discs could significantly improve the performance of solar panels. Scientists from the Northwestern University said that the unwanted discs have an important second use.
Existing patterns already very good
A team of researchers led by Alexander Smith found that the pattern of information written on Blu-ray discs improves light absorption across the solar spectrum. Jiaxing Huang, co-author of the study, said that they had a hunch that these discs could work very well to improve solar panels. Upon analysis, they found that existing patterns were “already very good.”
Blu-ray discs store a much higher density of data than CDs and DVDs. Over decades, engineers have perfected its quasi-random pattern for data storage. When this quasi-random pattern is transferred to the solar panel surface, it offers the right texture to boost the cells’ light absorption and performance. Scientists said that the overall absorption improvement of a solar panel with Blu-ray pattern on its surface was close to 22%, much higher than a standard solar cell.
Video content of Blu-ray discs doesn’t matter
Researchers tested a variety of TV shows and movies stored on Blu-ray discs, including dramas, cartoons, action movies, black-and-white content, and others. Scientists found that the video content was irrelevant. All of them worked equally well to improve light absorption. Solar experts know that if you place texture on the solar cell surface, light will be scattered more effectively, enhancing the cell’s efficiency. Researchers have long been looking for the most effective texture with relatively modest manufacturing cost.
Now Northwestern University scientists have demonstrated that the Blu-ray discs’ strings of binary 0s and 1s give solar panels “near-optimal texture” to boost their absorption. Findings of the study were published in the Nov.25 issue of the journal Nature Communications.