Gallery: Spray-On Solar Cells Energize Almost Any Surface

 

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.

Via LiveScience

LEAVE A COMMENT

or your inhabitat account below

Let's make sure you're a real person:


8 Comments

  1. pandas123 February 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    wow. im soooo gonna buy this

  2. Xavier MARLIER May 27, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Is it a new way for solar energy? It will a progress for the solar energy process.
    I have many technical question about the solar spray-on.
    I communicate and i find opportunity to innovant technology in France, and i will very please to get more informations.

  3. Latarsha April 12, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    This spray-on solar paint sounds like it’s definitely something to keep our eye on.

    The application of such a product is simply astounding. And three to five years on the solar horizon will be here quicker than we think.

    I’m actually looking forward to see how this technology will evolve over the next few years.

  4. alecam March 30, 2010 at 8:56 am

    Check out a company called Nanosolar. They are privately owned and have been doing this for years. They won the popular Science Innovation of the year in about 2007

  5. Thawatchai.N March 6, 2010 at 1:10 am

    So cool idea…. Can i test this in Thailand ?

  6. angel November 28, 2009 at 2:43 pm

    where can i get spay & paint on on solar cells for my RV angel24lee@yahoo.ocm

  7. JE Pritchett September 14, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    Since the photocell coatings are usually dark in color, they will heat up the surface of the roof while working. There are coatings available from SPI that will be applied first and the photocell coating applied over them to block this heat loading into the building while it is working.

  8. davidwayneosedach August 27, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    I love this concept. Between cellphones and MP3 players we can always use a new power source. This brings it anywhere. Anytime.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
What are you looking for? (Solar, HVAC, etc.)
Where are you located?