Gallery: 80% Cheaper Solar Cells Switch Gold For Nickel


One of the major drawbacks of most renewable energy sources is high cost. In order to see a huge rise in the use of renewable energy sources, prices must come down. In the world of solar there have recently been some major breakthroughs in cost advantages and efficiency increases. Scientists at the University of Toronto in Canada have come up with a way to reduce colloidal quantum dot solar cell prices by up to 80%, by swapping out costly conductive gold for cheap nickel.

Quantum dot solar cells consist of a silicon substrate that has a thin film coating of nanocrystals — or quantum dots. Gold was previously used as the conductive material in the cells and when scientists tried to switch the gold out for nickel the nickel formed new particles with the quantum dots that weren’t able to capture energy. Scientists at the University of Toronto led by Dr. Ratan Debnath found that increasing the layer of silicon substrate created a big enough barrier between the dots and the nickel that the solar cells became effective at the expected efficiency levels.

The team at University of Toronto published their findings in a paper in the July 12, 2010 issue of Applied Physics Letters and noted that with further research they believe that they will be able to increase the efficiency of their extremely inexpensive quantum dot solar panels and make them look attractive to consumers when they eventually hit the market. Unlike conventional solar panels, the quantum dot solar cells that the University of Toronto invented capture visible and infrared light. Though a mode for large scale production still hasn’t been found the impacts of these super-cheap cells could be huge.

Via Science Daily


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  1. river1221 November 2, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    @4thofjulyguy (and RBE Derick): let’s do it! (start a movement)
    There is lots of motion in the right direction (, for example), but the transformation needs to be more widespread…
    I’ve been giving out a list of links to scary articles and positive websites, hoping to generate greater involvement. Glad to see the techies are keeping up the good work! But people have to take up the cause! Have you heard of the transition movement? eg

  2. kieranmullen October 30, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    apex01 – Unfortunately we can\\\’t just plug into a tree. We have to burn coal which we have an abundance of in the USA, natural gas or nuclear. We know already that electricity is more efficient. That is why the use it in all US trains. Diesel Electric motors. However the Chinese have stranglehold on the resources required to produce solar (google rare earth metals China)

    It would be best to get people to consume less of course, but I don\\\’t see that happening either.

    Also I live in Oregon so we would only get benefits from Solar maybe 3 months of the year.

  3. apex01 October 29, 2010 at 10:19 pm

    Electricity is more efficient for transportation than gasoline per a used hydrocarbon(either derived from coal or gasoline). You get more bang for your buck using electricity.

  4. beboboy October 8, 2010 at 12:36 am

    @RBE & 4ofjulyguy & gern

    You guys are funny. ‘Off the grid’ is a situation that always needs some high tech equipment. It is not a ‘back the good old days’ kind of thing. For a small community it is possible to go off the grid, but society as a whole can not survive off the grid. Anyone who has lived with a poor brownout and blackout prone grid will agree. Even the Internet can not survive ‘off the grid.’ Can you imagine a restaurant running off the grid? What about those power hungry freezers? Do you think an auto repair shop can lift cars on solar powered hydrolic cylinder lifts? How about solar powered buses, trains, and planes?

    Thinking about your own home is fine. But face reality. Society needs a lot of energy, and unless we get blown back to the stone age, it is going to need only more.

    What we need is clean dependable energy, and a lot of it. For example electric cars are great, but if they are getting their overnight charge from burning coal, then what’s the benefit?

  5. 4ofjulyguy October 1, 2010 at 1:36 pm

    @RBE Derick

    My thoughts exactly…want to start a movement?

  6. gern September 30, 2010 at 5:00 pm

    Whatever it takes to screw the oil companies and utilities I’m all for it. Renewable energy will take us all off the grid as it should be.

  7. RBE Derick August 13, 2010 at 12:21 am

    Yes ofcoarse Canada has patent laws, but how long do you think the world can sustain the dog eat dog, cards-to-our-chest behavior of our species? We’re completely brainwashed into believing competition is a given and we must continue to ‘beat out’ the next nation and keep things to ourselves. The only ones benefitting from this behaviour have been large corporations and they have been doing a sound job of mucking up our planet. Has anyone ever noticed we are fast running out of time and that allowing corporate stupidity and greed to dominate our thinking is at the root cause? We need to understand real fast that the earth is ONE ORGANISM and since we have grown to such large numbers as a species, cannot maintain being at war with ourselves. We have to move away from the ‘monetary profits at all cost’ mentality if we have any hope of survival on this planet. Yes, imagine that, we need to drop greedy profit ideals entirely, we need to think very seriously about getting rid of phony, restrictive, ego-fostering monetary systems entirely if we are going to have a hope in hell of survival as a species.

    Too much of a dramatic shift…? At the rate we have been going, how much time do you think we have left on this planet?

  8. wackyxaky August 11, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Stories like this pop up every 4-6 months promising dramatic reduction in PV prices. . . Why not report when I can literally buy from a real company an actual consumer PV panel that is significantly cheaper?

  9. kieranmullen August 4, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    Does Canada have a patent system? perhaps the school can patent the idea and lease it to North American company’s? The Chinese have no respect for any law legal, enviromental etc… so any intellectual property sent to China is as good as gone. Reason why Intel & other major microchips are not made over there.

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