cyberfringe writes "Professor of Materials Science Dawn Bonnell and colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania have discovered a way to turn optical radiation into electrical current that could lead to self-powering molecular circuits and efficient data storage. They create surface plasmons that ride the surface of gold nanoparticles on a glass substrate. Surface plasmons were found to increase the efficiency of current production by a factor of four to 20, and with many independent parameters to optimize, enhancement factors could reach into the thousands. 'If the efficiency of the system could be scaled up without any additional, unforeseen limitations, we could conceivably manufacture a 1A, 1V sample the diameter of a human hair and an inch long,' Prof. Bonnell explained. The academic paper was published in the current issue of ACS Nano. (Abstract available for free.) The significance? This may allow the creation of nano-sized circuits that can power themselves through sunlight (or another directed light source). Delivery of power to nanodevices is one of the big challenges in the field."