Bulky and expensive photovoltaic panels are so 2008. What does the future look like? Entire buildings, rooftops and even windows spray-painted with revolutionary nanoparticle inks that channel solar power into a thin, semi-transparent and relatively inexpensive medium. Sound crazy? Not at all, according to one group of chemical engineers.
Spray-on solar cells may sound like a high-end development, but the technology actually stands to be cheaper than traditional solar panels. “The sun provides a nearly unlimited energy resource, but existing solar energy harvesting technologies are prohibitively expensive and cannot compete with fossil fuels,” says chemical engineer Brian Korgel of the University of Texas at Austin whose team is developing the graffiti-capable solar cells.
Most photovoltaics are currently made of silicon, but the inks developed by Korgel’s team are made up of copper indium gallium selenide (or CIGS) — sunlight-absorbing nanoparticles that are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. These nanocrystals are made into a solution and then spraypainted onto a substrate. If the crystals can do what Korgel says they can do, this new method has the potential to boost the applications of solar power exponentially.
The process is still in the works – thus far, the prototypes that have been developed can only convert 1% of the sunlight that hits the cell into electricity. The goal conversion is 10%, so there is still quite a way to go. “If it works, I think you could see it being used in three to five years,” explains Korgel.
- 3 Comments >
164 Comments >
19-Year-Old Develops Ocean Cleanup Array That Could Remove 7,250,000 Tons Of Plastic From the World's Oceans
- 0 Comments >
- 19 Comments >
164 Comments >
- 84 Comments >
- 32 Comments >
- 90 Comments >
- 2002 Comments >
411 Comments >
BACK TO SCHOOL GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win a HP Pavilion dv6 Laptop and Green Prize Package (Worth $1155!)
- 386 Comments >
- 365 Comments >
- 350 Comments >
282 Comments >
LAST CHANCE: Enter to Win a Voltaic Laptop-Charging Solar Backpack Filled With Green School Supplies (Worth $500)!
278 Comments >
GIVEAWAY: Enter to Win a Sloan AQUS Grey Water Toilet System That Recycles Your Sink Water (Worth $189)!
- 247 Comments >
240 Comments >
LAST CHANCE: Enter Inhabitat's Back To School Contest to Win $250+ of Green Goodies Including a Voltaic Solar Backpack (Worth $129)
- 228 Comments >
- 221 Comments >
- 187 Comments >
Top image: A child is put to work at a militia-run mine in Watsa. © Marcus Bleasdale/National Geographic Captured during a 2004 visit to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo, Bleasdale's images "tell the story of the country's mineral resourceREAD MORE >
You've all heard the tired mantras about changing your lightbulbs and recycling at home in order to save the planet - are you yawning yet? Many consumers think that going green is a gesture of self-sacrifice that often comes at great expense and inconvenienceREAD MORE >
Did you know that there are wolves living near you in almost every state in the country? Sadly most of these wolves are not living in the wild, but in wolf sanctuaries, which are conservation organizations set up to protect them and help grow their populationREAD MORE >
BANANAS You might have heard that bananas are favored by athletes because they contain potassium and it's that same reason that makes them great hangover cures. When you're hungover, your body has lost a lot of potassium that needs to be replenished, so eatingREAD MORE >
Images © Graham King “The shopping cart tree symbolizes both generosity and abundance, as well as acknowledging those less fortunate where their whole world may be housed in a cart. We see shopping carts every day and take them for granted. IndividuallyREAD MORE >
TIP 1: Wrap Your Home in Insulation - "The More, The Better!" Proper insulation is probably the most important factor you can control in creating an energy-efficient home. I always say insulation is like chocolate, the more you have, the better! On average,READ MORE >
While conjuring up comfort in the home seems like a basic principle, it’s a far more complex process for architect & remodeling guru Sarah Susanka, who believes that comfort can significantly influence the sustainability of your personal abode. WithREAD MORE >
Two architects, Jos Burger and Wouter Keijzer of BK. Architecten, in charge of the renovation of the old church decided to preserve the atmosphere of the existing place with a spatial intervention that preserves its historical value. The three new floors wereREAD MORE >
For centuries, the Dutch have manipulated the landscape to move water away from their dwellings. Instead of battling the elements, Netherlands-based firm Waterstudio just announced plans to construct the world's first floating apartment complex in 2014! TheREAD MORE >
The Biomimicry Manual: What can We Learn About Resilience, Weight Loss, and Kidney Disease from the Grizzly Bear?I'm off to the wilds of Montana this week, doing some in-person, up-close biomimicry research, and I've got my fingers crossed I'll see a grizzly bear. But you know, over there, not over here. With five inch long claws, massive muscular shoulders and forearms,READ MORE >
INHABITAT: How does the term Colorfast describe your latest show? R Nelson Parrish: The term Colorfast originally is a textile industry term derived at the beginning of the last century. It defines how a color cannot fade, wash out, or be diluted over time,READ MORE >
Photocredits: Architect Koen Olthuis - Waterstudio.NL and Pieter Kers FLOAT! is a beautiful volume that explores the world of floating architecture through historic, current, and future developments as well as the technologies behind them. Eye-catchingREAD MORE >