Spray-On Nano-Ink Solar Cells
Solar cells are costly to make, and are relatively fragile. A new process could make it possible to spray solar cells onto any sun-drenched surface to create power.
A team headed by Brian Korgel of the University of Texas at Austin has been working with prototypes. The key is a special spray made up of copper indium gallium selenide; these nanoparticles absorb sunlight.
(Nano-ink sprayed onto solar cell)
"We make a solution of these nanocrystals, and we spray paint them onto a substrate," said Matthew Panthani, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in Korgel's lab.
The team envisions printing such inks in a newspaper-like process. "We'd have some sort of flexible substrate, maybe plastic or metal foil, and it would be on a spool and be unrolled. And the nanocrystals would be sprayed on," Panthani told LiveScience.
So far, they have developed solar-cell prototypes that can convert 1 percent of the sunlight that hits the cell into electricity.
"If we get to 10 percent, then there's real potential for commercialization," said Korgel.
The research was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society.
SF fans have been trying to keep their dispositions sunny while waiting for this one, ever since Larry Niven wrote about black power in his 1995 story The Woman in Del Rey Crater.
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