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Monday, August 29, 2022

A Trap for Efficient Light Use

 And thus using it more efficiently.  How well?

Creating a perfect trap for light

by Hebrew University of Jerusalem  and TU Wein    in TechExplore

Whether in photosynthesis or in a photovoltaic system: If you want to use light efficiently, you have to absorb it as completely as possible. However, this is difficult if the absorption is to take place in a thin layer of material that normally lets a large part of the light pass through.

Now, research teams from TU Wien and from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU) have found a surprising trick that allows a beam of light to be completely absorbed even in the thinnest of layers: They built a "light trap" around the thin layer using mirrors and lenses, in which the light beam is steered in a circle and then superimposed on itself—exactly in such a way that the beam of light blocks itself and can no longer leave the system. Thus, the light has no choice but to be absorbed by the thin layer—there is no other way out.

This absorption-amplification method, which has now been presented in the scientific journal Science, is the result of a fruitful collaboration between the two teams: the approach was suggested by Prof. Ori Katz from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and conceptualized with Prof. Stefan Rotter from TU Wien; the experiment was carried out in by the lab team in Jerusalem and the theoretical calculations came from the team in Vienna.

"Absorbing light is easy when it hits a solid object," shared Prof. Stefan Rotter from the Institute of Theoretical Physics at TU Wien. "A thick black wool jumper can easily absorb light. But in many technical applications, you only have a thin layer of material available and you want the light to be absorbed exactly in this layer."

There have already been attempts to improve the absorption of materials: For example, the material can be placed between two mirrors. The light is reflected back and forth between the two mirrors, passing through the material each time and thus having a greater chance of being absorbed. However, for this purpose, the mirrors must not be perfect—one of them must be partially transparent, otherwise the light cannot penetrate the area between the two mirrors at all. But this also means that whenever the light hits this partially transparent mirror, some of the light is lost.

To prevent this, it is possible to use the wave properties of light in a sophisticated way. "In our approach, we are able to cancel all back-reflections by wave interference", noted HU's Prof. Ori Katz. Helmut Hörner, from TU Wien, who dedicated his thesis to this topic explained, "in our method, too, the light first falls on a partially transparent mirror. If you simply send a laser beam onto this mirror, it is split into two parts: The larger part is reflected, a smaller part penetrates the mirror."  .... ' 

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