Researchers at SUNY Buffalo are working on a new generation of liquid solar cells that may one day be as cheap as paint. Although they would be significantly less efficient than conventional solar cells made with either amorphous silicon or cadmium telluride, these new plasmonic-enhanced photovoltaic solar cells containing metal nanoparticles are less costly to produce and can be applied to much bigger surfaces.

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Writing in the journal Advanced Materials, lead researcher Qiaoqiang Gan from the University at Buffalo outlines the benefits of using metal nanoparticles to increase the efficiency with which liquid solar cells convert light energy into electrical energy. For the cells to be even close to viable for the market, they need to reach a conversion rate of at least 10 percent, according to Gan.

The research team is getting close to meeting this goal with the help of plasmonics – an emergent solar development that could make solar power accessible to a broader audience.

“Plasmons are electromagnetic waves and free electrons that can be used to oscillate back and forth across the interface of metals and semiconductors,” writes Gan and co-authors, who argue that “there should be a renewed focus on how nanomaterials and plasmonic strategies can create more efficient and affordable thin-film organic solar cells.”

Via Cleantechnica

Lead image via University at Buffalo, image of paint roller via Restyling Home by Kelly