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.

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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