Solar Paint is an environmentally friendly solar cell technology that will allow every household to generate their own electricity, affordably and sustainably.
The invention involves the development of a completely printable organic solar cell based on semiconducting polymer nano-particles dispersed in water. Essentially these tiny particles in suspension are a water-based paint, which can be printed or coated over large areas. Light shining on an organic solar cell produces positive and negative charges that can only be separated at interfaces between the polymer components in the cell. In an organic solar cell, the positive and negative charges can only travel a very short distance (around 10 nanometers or a millionth of a centimeter) before they recombine to give off light or heat, which is not very useful! So, in order obtain useful energy from an organic solar cell, these light-generated charges must be separated and collected within a few nanometers.
Fortunately, this separation readily occurs at interfaces, or junctions, to produce two separated positive and negative charges, which then travel to the electrodes (or contacts) and then out of the solar cell to produce an electrical current. The most efficient devices consist of a mixture (or blend) of a p-type semi-conducting polymer, which readily accepts and transfers positive charges, and a n-type material that readily accepts and transfers negative charges. By creating tiny nanoparticles, we have both controlled the maximum distances that the charges have to travel before coming to an interface and allowed the coatings to be made out of water – a non-hazardous solvent!
Researchers are making headway into creating compounds that could easily be applied to window glass to turn them into semi-transparent solar panels.
Norwegian company EnSol AS is working with experts in the University of Leicester Department of Physics and Astronomy to develop its patented solar cell material that could be applied as a thin film on windows to harness solar power on a large scale.
While some light would need to be absorbed in order to generate power, the windows would only have slight tinting, a desirable attribute in many buildings with windows exposed to the sun. The material could also form part of a building’s walls or as clip-together solar roof tiles.
The material is composed of metal nanoparticles embedded in a transparent composite matrix. According to EnSol AS, the solar cell concept has been demonstrated, and further development efforts are aiming to achieve a cell efficiency of 20% or greater.
Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun’s power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day.
The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains the first solar cells able to harness the sun’s invisible, infrared rays. The breakthrough has led theorists to predict that plastic solar cells could one day become five times more efficient than current solar cell technology.
Like paint, the composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as portable electricity. A sweater coated in the material could power a cell phone or other wireless devices. A hydrogen-powered car painted with the film could potentially convert enough energy into electricity to continually recharge the car’s battery.
The researchers envision that one day “solar farms” consisting of the plastic material could be rolled across deserts to generate enough clean energy to supply the entire planet’s power needs.
“The sun that reaches the Earth’s surface delivers 10,000 times more energy than we consume,” said Ted Sargent, an electrical and computer engineering professor at the University of Toronto. Sargent is one of the inventors of the new plastic material.
“If we could cover 0.1 percent of the Earth’s surface with [very efficient] large-area solar cells,” he said, “we could in principle replace all of our energy habits with a source of power which is clean and renewable.”