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Printable Liquid Solar Cells

Tiny solar nanocrystals developed at USC are so small that they can float in a liquid solution. Just four nanometers in size, you could print a solar cell onto a surface like printing a newspaper.

Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College and USC postdoctoral researcher David H. Webber developed a new surface coating for the nanocrystals, which are made of the semiconductor cadmium selenide. Their research is featured as a "hot article" this month in the international journal for inorganic chemistry Dalton Transactions.

Liquid nanocrystal solar cells are cheaper to fabricate than available single-crystal silicon wafer solar cells but are not nearly as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Brutchey and Webber solved one of the key problems of liquid solar cells: how to create a stable liquid that also conducts electricity.

Brutchey and Webber discovered a synthetic ligand that not only works well at stabilizing nanocrystals, but actually builds tiny bridges connecting the nanocrystals to help transmit current.

With a relatively low-temperature process, the researchers' method also allows for the possibility that solar cells can be printed onto plastic instead of glass without any issues with melting – resulting in a flexible solar panel that can be shaped to fit anywhere.

Fans of sf great Larry Niven recall black power, a paint that can turn any surface into a solar power generator, from his 1995 short story The Woman in Del Rey Crater.

From USC.

Scroll down for more stories in the same category. (Story submitted 4/29/2012)

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