According to, researchers at the US Department of Energy’s labs in Idaho have developed a technology that may supercede solar cells in efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The answer? Nanoantennas.

Nanoantennas can be set in sheets of plastic and used to harvest Earth’s abundant infrared rays that are radiated as heat after absorbing energy from the sun all day. Currently, the most affordable solar cells work at about 20% efficiency – that is, they only use about 20% of the light they collect from the sun. The most efficient ones available (and not considered cheap enough for mass production) run at about 40% efficiency. Nanoantennas are projected to be able to harvest 92% of the energy available in infrared wavelenths. Additionally, because they’re absorbing heat from infrared rays rather than solar light, they can even work at night.

Research on nanoantennas is in its earliest phases, and it may be quite a while before we see any results at the consumer level. But the promise is there, and hopefully solar power will be a viable addition – or even alternative – to our traditional power sources before too long.