Tiny antennas that can harvest light and heat could deliver new solar tech

A quiet startup called RedWave Energy, based just outside of Chicago, has been heads-down working on building prototypes of tiny antennas that can harvest clean power from infrared light, waste heat and eventually visible light. According to a filing, the company, which was founded in January 2011, has just closed on a $1 million round, and the company’s investors include Northwater Capital.

RedWave Energy says on its website that early markets for the technology could be industries like explosives detection and high speed communications. But later down the line, the end goal could be harvesting solar energy in a method that has twice the capacity of current solar cells and panels but at a lower cost.

Nanotechnology is being used to eek out as much efficiency as possible from solar cells and panels. For example, Swedish startup Sol Voltaics says it has developed a low cost way to make tiny nanowires out of the semiconductor gallium arsenide. Sol Voltaics turns these nanowires into an ink, which can be layered onto basic solar panels and boost the efficiency of a standard panel by 25 percent.

But RedWave Energy’s nano scale antennas — or nantennas — work differently than solar cells. Nantennas act as an antenna or collector to absorb light of specific wavelengths and convert it into electricity. The technology has been around for decades, but RedWave Energy is now trying to commercialize nantenna technology licensed from Idaho National Labs, tech from University of Colorado, and is working with manufacturing company MicroContinuum.

RedWave Energy says it will start to talk more about its energy capture technology after it builds its prototype in the second quarter of 2013. We’ve reached out to the company and will update this if we hear back.