Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory may have found a way to make solar cells that would be cheap and ubiquitous. Unlike today's photovoltaic cells, made from pure crystals that must be grown in contamination-free environments, these new solar cells could be stamped out using common industrial techniques. But what promises to be the most efficient means of harnessing solar power is not through heat or photovoltaic effects. Instead, Steven Novack and his colleague, Dale Kotter, tap solar energy much the way a radio antenna taps into an FM signal: The electric field created by traveling light waves makes electrons oscillate in a nanoscale antenna. Automated production could bring down the cost of solar power below that of all other sources.
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