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Niven's 'Black Power' Now Available In Infrared

In his 1995 short story The Woman in Del Rey Crater, sf writer Larry Niven writes about about black power, a technology that sounds impossible:

What's finally knocked the bottom out is this new solar electric paint. Black Power, they call it. It turns sunlight into electricity, just like any solar power converter, but you spray it on. Place your cables and then spray over them. All you need is sunlight and room.
(Read more about black power)

However, a team lead by University of Toronto scientist Ted Sargent has created a sprayable plastic composite that could harvest as much as thirty percent of the solar power that strikes a surface. The best plastic solar cells currently capture only about six percent.


One Nanoparticle (4 Billionths of a Meter in Diameter
(Individual atoms of lead and sulfur can be resolved)

"In fact, there's enough power from the sun hitting the Earth every day to supply all the world's needs for energy 10,000 times over,'' Sargent said in a phone interview Sunday from Boston. He is currently a visiting professor of nanotechnology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Sargent said the new plastic composite is, in layman's terms, a layer of film that "catches'' solar energy. He said the film can be applied to any device, much like paint is coated on a wall.
(From New plastic can better convert solar energy)

Technologies already exist that make large, low-cost solar cells possible (see Researchers move closer to plastic, cheaper solar power cells); these cells only harvested energy from the visible spectrum.

“We made particles from semiconductor crystals which were exactly two, three or four nanometres in size. The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,” explains Sargent. Then, they tuned the tiny nanocrystals to catch light at very long wavelengths. The result – a sprayable infrared detector.
(From Nanotechnologists' new plastic can see in the dark)

Story from Nanotechnologists' new plastic can see in the dark press release.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 1/10/2005)

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