Paint Yerself A Power Supply

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I know that a 'Manhattan Project'-style effort to minimize our dependence on a petroleum-based economy (a/k/a "Tell the oil ticks they can go pound sand") is a pipe dream - Steven den Beste has already laid that all out, at least in the short term. But wouldn't it be cool if you could add active solar to your house for the cost of paint plus a bit of wiring?

That day may be closer than we think:

Development of a low-cost plastic infrared photovoltaic material by a group at the University of Toronto could herald a major step forward for solar power, its creators believe, by enabling solar-powered systems to also harvest infrared emissions.

The material embeds various-size nanoparticles-or quantum dots-in a polymer suspension. "We have designed a plastic device that is physically flexible-you could even paint it onto things by putting it in a solution," said Toronto EE professor Ted Sargent. "However you deposit it, after drying you have a nice, thin, smooth film that provides the basis for an electronic device."

. . .

"Our first device was an infrared detector, which converts infrared optical signals into an electrical signal," said Sargent. "As a bonus, because we hadn't anticipated that this would work, we found that it was also a good photovoltaic material capable of harnessing the sun's power.

. . .

But Sargent argues that his plastic photovoltaic material can be tuned, with almost any variety of embedded quantum dots, to whichever spectrum is required-both visible and infrared nanoparticles-for a full-spectrum solar cell.

"We think it is quite important," said Sargent. "In the past, photovoltaic cells have not harvested that other [infrared] half of the spectrum, but our device does for the first time."

One of the knocks on solar power is that the efficiency factor is too low to be cost-effective. Maybe a material that can capture and convert the infrared portion of sunlight will lower the cost-benefit ratio enough to make solar practical.

Of course, it ain't like I'll be schlepping down to the Big Orange Box and grabbing a few gallons of Behr Galvanic Pile Green anytime soon:

Sargent believes large-area plastic infrared photovoltaics could become a major marketplace within 10 years, depending on how low their cost goes.

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This page contains a single entry by Chris published on February 8, 2005 4:51 PM.

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