How a Blu-ray of Jackie Chan’s ‘Supercop’ can improve solar efficiency

27 Nov 2014

Authors of the study, authors Dongning Guo, Cheng Sun, Chen Wang, Alexander Smith and Jiaxing Huang. Image via Northwestern University

Blu-ray discs, aside from being able to store large quantities of information, can also be used to improve the efficiency of solar cells, new research has found.

Giving new hope for those looking to find an excuse to get rid of that copy of Jack & Gill they were given as a Christmas present last year, the team of researchers from Northwestern University in the US were able to identify that a Blu-ray disc’s quasi-random pattern, when transferred to the surface of solar cells, provides the right texture to improve the cells’ light absorption and performance.

According to the release on the new discovery, one of the co-authors of the study, Jiaxing Huang, says that they tried a number of different discs, all with different types of content on them, whether they be TV shows or films, and even tested different genres including action movies, dramas, documentaries, cartoons and black-and-white content, all of which showed the same results.

A schematic of a Blu-ray disc showing the elements that make it such an effective solar absorption device. Image via Nature Communications/Northwestern University

However, Jackie Chan’s Supercop was chosen as the first movie to undergo the researcher’s observations and the team replicated the pattern on the active layer of a polymer solar cell and found the cell was more efficient than a control solar cell with a random pattern on its surface.

In their demonstrations, they were able to show a Blu-ray disc’s strings of binary code 0s and 1s gives solar cells the ‘near optimal’ texture to improve its rate of light absorption.

Speaking of their findings, Huang said that it’s almost as if the developers of the Blu-ray disc were well aware of its other properties, “We had a hunch that Blu-ray discs might work for improving solar cells, and, to our delight, we found the existing patterns are already very good.

“It’s as if electrical engineers and computer scientists developing the Blu-ray technology have been subconsciously doing our jobs, too.”

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic