Spray-paint solar cells
A new type of solar cell in development resembles a spray-paint-like synthetic. Designers, solar energy enthusiasts and graffiti artists everywhere may soon have an exciting new material to work with.
Able to absorb light and conduct electricity, zinc phosphide nanoparticles are currently an unconventional material in the solar cell industry. But perhaps not for much longer. Chemistry professor Jill Buriak and her research team at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada, have discovered that zinc phosphide nanoparticles can be dissolved into an ink-like material. When the ink is sprayed onto a surface, it dries, forming a very thin, paper-like film that is responsive to light.
Buriak and her team believe the invention could dramatically lower the cost of solar cell technology. The solar spray does not require the expensive silicon that is present in many of today’s solar panels. And because of their weight, many of today’s solar cells require a contractor for installation and sometimes even additional roof re-inforcement. By contrast, even the most incompetent DIY enthusiast could simply roll out the solar film on a surface like a blanket. Or the ink could be spray-painted onto walls and windows. Instead of mounting big, bulky, solar cell units on the roof of a building, energy harvesting will become better integrated into building envelope design. We think this solar pavilion made with walls made of photovoltaics is a great example of things to come as solar technology advances.
Buriak’s team hope their invention could lead to a solar cell design revolution, with the film woven into every-day fabrics. In the future, your jacket could potentially charge your mobile phone.
These spray-on solar cells require further research in order to improve their efficiency, but the team hopes that the concept will be on the market sometime in 2015.
You can read more about Jill Buriak and her team’s discovery here.
While Canada as a country is not exactly renowned for its sunny climate, there have been a number of interested projects that creative employ solar energy technology. Be sure to check out this church in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan that incorporates solar cells into its beautiful stained glass window installations.