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Sight unseen: scientists develop anti-reflection coating that makes plastic “invisible”

Serendipitous discovery sees researchers create highly effective coating while developing solar panels

Red frames

An anti-reflection coating that is capable of making plastic “invisible” has been developed by scientists working on making solar panels more efficient.

The technology, which was described in Nano Letters, targets the entire solar spectrum rather than the narrower visible portion of the spectrum that is the focus of traditional anti-reflection coatings in spectacles.

Dr Chris Giebink, from Pennsylvania State University, explained that the coating came about during the development of solar panels.

“Our approach involved concentrating light onto small, high-efficiency solar cells using plastic lenses and we needed to minimise their reflection loss,” he explained. 

After discovering that there was no existing technology that suited their purpose, the researchers set about creating a coating that covered the solar spectrum and functioned from a variety of angles as the sun moved across the sky.

Dr Giebink highlighted that the resulting technology is widely applicable and scaleable.

“We’ve been interacting with a number of companies that are looking for improved anti-reflection coatings for plastic,” he said.

Potential applications range from the plastic domes that protect security cameras to eliminating reflections within virtual and augmented reality headsets.

The coating is anti-fogging as well as anti-reflective.