Antireflection coating makes plastic virtually invisible
Antireflection (AR) coatings on plastics have a multitude of practical applications, including glare reduction on eyeglasses, computer monitors and the display on smart-phones when outdoors. Now, researchers at Penn State have developed an AR coating that improves on existing coatings to the extent that it can make transparent plastics, such as Plexiglas, virtually invisible.
“This discovery came about as we were trying to make higher-efficiency solar panels,” said Chris Giebink, associate professor of electrical engineering, Penn State. “Our approach involved concentrating light onto small, high-efficiency solar cells using plastic lenses, and we needed to minimise their reflection loss.”
Although it is comparatively easy to make a coating that will eliminate reflection at a particular wavelength or in a particular direction, one that could fit all criteria at once did not exist. For instance, eyeglass AR coatings are targeted to the narrow visible portion of the spectrum. But the solar spectrum is about five times as broad as the visible spectrum, so such a coating would not perform well for a concentrating solar cell system.
Createing nanoscale pores in evaporated Teflon
In a paper recently published paper Giebink and coauthors describe a new process to bridge the gap between Teflon and air. They used a sacrificial molecule to create nanoscale pores in evaporated Teflon, thereby creating a graded index Teflon-air film that fools light into seeing a smooth refractive index transition from 1 to 1.5, eliminating essentially all reflections.
“The interesting thing about Teflon, which is a polymer, is when you heat it up in a crucible, the large polymer chains cleave into smaller fragments that are small enough to volatize and send up a vapor flux. When these land on a substrate they can repolymerise and form Teflon,” Giebink said. When the sacrificial molecules are added to the flux, the Teflon will reform around the molecules. Dissolving the sacrificial molecules out leaves a nanoporous film that can be graded by adding more pores.
Further information can be found on the Penn State Website.