In the future you might painting your home not with standard paint, but rather, with a nice coating of energy-generating solar cells. In one of the most interesting developments in solar panel technology so far, researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology, directed by Somenath Mitra, claim to have developed a way to create a solar cell that can be painted on flexible plastic sheets.

The findings were presented in a paper for the Journal of Materials Chemistry. In the paper, they describe how using a combination of carbon nanotubes complex and carbon Buckyball molecule they can create a series of snake-like molecular structures. The sunlight excites the polymer backing, which in turn causes it to release electrons.

One of the curious properties of a Buckyball molecule is that it catches the electrons, though it can’t achieve a flow of them. When linked to a nanotube, the Buckyball transfers the electron as though it were a simple copper cable, thus generating electricity. Researchers hope to turn this procedure into a simple and cheap way for consumers to install solar cells in their houses.

“Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations.” said Somenath Mitra.

+ New Jersey Institute of Technology report