Australian-based researchers have produced a graphene-based film that absorbs sunlight at 90 percent efficiency with almost no IR thermal emission loss. According to IEEE Spectrum, it’s the first time an achievement has been noted. The film has been proposed for applications spanning thermal energy collection and storage, and even desalination of ocean water.
The researchers’ metamaterial not only heats up rapidly, it resists losing that heat as it continues to absorb light from the sun. It’s made of a graphene film just 30 nanometers thick, which allows it to more efficiently transfer absorbed heat to other materials. The film is waterproof, and its copper layer is protected from corrosion by the graphene, which increases its usable lifespan.
The researchers say their material can be used for harvesting energy, generating steam, cleaning wastewater, and generating thermoelectricity. Of course, the challenge is finding a manufacturer who can produce the film at scale, but the team told IEEE Spectrum they’re working with a company with a coating machine capable of layering the materials. The team estimates their film could be ready for commercial application in 1-2 years.