Connect with us

Hi, what are you looking for?


Energy Efficiency

Waffle Iron Inspires “Sputnik Moment” for Low Cost Solar Power

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News!

stanford researchers develop new thin film solar technology based on waffle ironWhen President Obama recently called for a “Sputnik moment” to inspire a new generation of American innovation, he probably did not expect researchers at Stanford University to answer with a waffle iron. However, that pretty much summed up what happened, at least in the nanoscale world of plasmonics.  It could lead to a new generation of affordable, high efficiency solar panels that will be as ubiquitous as, well, waffle irons.

“Waffle Iron” Solar Technology

As described by Stanford writer Andrew Myers, the researchers used a batter made mostly of titania, a semi-porous, transparent metal that is becoming useful in new solar technologies. First, they spread the titania batter on a base. Then they used a nano-scale waffle iron to imprint the batter with a honeycomb pattern. To bash the waffle metaphor even more, they filled the dimples with a layer of butter in the form of light-sensitive dye. They finished off with a layer of silver “syrup,” which hardened over the filled-in dimples to form domes.

High-Efficiency Thin Film Solar Cells

The result of all this is a concoction that Iron Chef could only dream of. The silvery bumps make unabsorbed light ricochet around until they get absorbed, which makes the new film more efficient. In addition, the use of light absorbing dye makes the new film less costly than conventional silicon solar cells (though in terms of relative efficiency and durability, dyes have have some catching up to do).

Plasmonics and Solar Cells

Myers notes that the Stanford film also contains a “secret ingredient:” the plasmonic effect. Plasmonics is an emerging field that exploits the ability of light and metal to create energy. Under the under the right conditions, light interacts with metal to produce electrical pulses, similar to sound waves. This property enabled the researchers to create a film that is far thinner than conventional thin film solar technology. With improvements in efficiency and durability, the new film could be applied to a wide range of uses, including many small, portable products as well as larger stationary solar arrays.

Image: Waffles by chadmiller on

Have a tip for CleanTechnica? Want to advertise? Want to suggest a guest for our CleanTech Talk podcast? Contact us here.

EV Obsession Daily!

I don't like paywalls. You don't like paywalls. Who likes paywalls? Here at CleanTechnica, we implemented a limited paywall for a while, but it always felt wrong — and it was always tough to decide what we should put behind there. In theory, your most exclusive and best content goes behind a paywall. But then fewer people read it!! So, we've decided to completely nix paywalls here at CleanTechnica. But...
Like other media companies, we need reader support! If you support us, please chip in a bit monthly to help our team write, edit, and publish 15 cleantech stories a day!
Thank you!

Tesla Sales in 2023, 2024, and 2030

CleanTechnica uses affiliate links. See our policy here.
Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Spoutible.


You May Also Like


The center at SLAC aims to bridge the gaps between discovering, manufacturing, and deploying innovative energy storage solutions


A polymer-based electrolyte made for batteries that keep working — and don’t catch fire — when heated to over 140 degrees F.

Cleantech News

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News! Despite their supposed focus on sustainability, there seems...

Climate Change

Sign up for daily news updates from CleanTechnica on email. Or follow us on Google News! Stanford University is the recipient of a $1.1...

Copyright © 2023 CleanTechnica. The content produced by this site is for entertainment purposes only. Opinions and comments published on this site may not be sanctioned by and do not necessarily represent the views of CleanTechnica, its owners, sponsors, affiliates, or subsidiaries.