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Nanoscale, geometrically-asymmetric tunnel junctions for collection and rectification of light

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Penn State Altoona is one of the key players in a collaborative research endeavor with the Storrs campus of the University of Connecticut, and Scitech Associates Holdings, Inc. of State College, to study the physics of a quantum tunneling device aimed at harnessing the visible portion of the solar spectrum – a feat that has never been accomplished.

The National Science Foundation awarded a total of $650K to perform “Electro-optical studies of nanoscale, geometrically-asymmetric tunnel junctions for collection and rectification of light from infrared through visible.” The objective of the research project is to develop a “rectenna” device consisting of a nanosized antenna and an ultra-fast tunnel diode that simultaneously collects and rectifies solar radiation. The Altoona team consists of physics professors Gary Weisel, Brock Weiss, and Darin Zimmerman, and materials science professor, James Chen. The University of Connecticut team is headed by Brian Willis, Professor of Chemical Engineering. The collaboration also employs Penn State Emeritus physics professors Paul Cutler and Nicholas Miskovsky who are the senior personnel of Scitech.