Turns out that pattern isn’t just beautiful in the light, it’s also useful when it comes to the light. Because the particular structure of a typical Blu-ray disc happens to be one that boosts the light absorbing ability of photovoltaics. That’s according to a study in the journal Nature Communications. [Alexander J. Smith, Repurposing Blu-ray movie discs as quasi-random nanoimprinting templates for photon management]
The semi-random pattern of microscopic bumps and indents that store a movie on a Blu-ray disc also helps solar cells absorb light by spreading it around more widely within the cell—where a greater percentage of it is then available to generate a current.
Researchers at Northwestern University made the discovery by transferring the pattern of the Jackie Chan movie Supercop to the top of a plastic solar cell. They found, to their surprise, that the Supercopped solar cell boosted performance by more than 20 percent.
Of course, Supercop is not a special movie, except maybe to hardcore Chan fans. Dramas, documentaries and even cartoons worked just as well. Which means all that Blu-ray disc-making prowess could get applied to a new purpose: clean power.