Researchers develop paint-on solar cells (w/ video)

Dec 21, 2011
This paste of cadmium sulfide-coated titanium dioxide nanoparticles could turn large surfaces into solar cells. (Photo Credit: ACS Nano)

(PhysOrg.com) -- Imagine if the next coat of paint you put on the outside of your home generates electricity from light—electricity that can be used to power the appliances and equipment on the inside.

A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame have made a major advance toward this vision by creating an inexpensive "solar " that uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy.

"We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology," says Prashant Kamat, John A. Zahm Professor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry and an investigator in Notre Dame's Center for Nano Science and Technology (NDnano), who leads the research.

"By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we've made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

The team's search for the new material, described in the journal ACS Nano, centered on nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide, which were coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. The particles were then suspended in a water-alcohol mixture to create a paste.

When the paste was brushed onto a transparent conducting material and exposed to light, it created .

"The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we've reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon ," explains Kamat.

"But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future."

"That's why we've christened the new paint, Sun-Believable," he adds.

Kamat and his team also plan to study ways to improve the stability of the new material.

NDnano is one of the leading nanotechnology centers in the world. Its mission is to study and manipulate the properties of materials and devices, as well as their interfaces with living systems, at the nano-scale.

Explore further: Researchers make nanostructured carbon using the waste product sawdust

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User comments : 23

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jwalkeriii
5 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2011
key word: stabilty
The sun really hates solar "paint" :)
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2011
If it's really cheap: Apply. Use until degraded. Scrape off. Repeat.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
Why not intersperse some clear materials so light can diffuse into the paint internally ?
Argiod
1 / 5 (6) Dec 21, 2011
I predicted this almost ten years ago. About time they figured it out. And, yes, Isaacsname, it seems like it would work in something like a clear varnish with a metallic primer, for maximum effect.
Callippo
1 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
When the paste was brushed onto a transparent conducting material and exposed to light, it created electricity.
How? Such layer is essentially symmetric.
dschlink
5 / 5 (2) Dec 21, 2011
Argiod - congratulations on predicting something that has been around since the 1980s.

This new approach is slightly better than efforts back then, but 1% over my house's roof would only power the refrigerator and the microwave, during the day, at high noon.
MorituriMax
3.7 / 5 (3) Dec 21, 2011
So they say major advance, I bet like everything else I read about it will be decades or centuries till we get it or it will just never reach any marketable product. I know science progresses at it's own pace but I've read hundreds of articles about tech that never makes it off the web pages here.

It's really depressing.
TheGhostofOtto1923
2.7 / 5 (7) Dec 21, 2011
key word: stabilty
The sun really hates solar "paint" :)
Details. I am sure DuPont can fix this too. We can paint highways maybe?
I predicted this almost ten years ago. About time they figured it out. And, yes, Isaacsname, it seems like it would work in something like a clear varnish with a metallic primer, for maximum effect.
Well I predicted this 11 years ago so I am apparently more prescient than you. I also predicted smart phones and motion capture. And the iraq war (both of them). So what? I am still poor and I bet you are too.
spaceagesoup
3 / 5 (1) Dec 21, 2011
Wow you're all regular nostradami. who cares who "predicted" what. loads of people have thought about this time and again. and even now there's only a few applications (pardon the pun).

This site is filled with wanna-bes and has-beens. Comments about your own half baked theories and ideas and predictions really fall flat without some real-world examples. And of top of that, it's a bore to read.
Isaacsname
not rated yet Dec 21, 2011
it seems like it would work in something like a clear varnish with a metallic primer, for maximum effect.


I wuz thinking glass microspheres actually.

I shure am glad us neomaxiezunedweebies have a bonifereyed cosmopolitan like Spaceagesoup around to chastize us.

*snivel*
Code_Warrior
3 / 5 (4) Dec 22, 2011
I predicted this almost ten years ago. About time they figured it out. And, yes, Isaacsname, it seems like it would work in something like a clear varnish with a metallic primer, for maximum effect.

We're sorry, but the prediction bureau regrets to inform you that your prediction was not properly filed, therefore we are forced to reject your claim. In the future, please file form FC-88MPH-DELORIAN at least 3 weeks prior to event occurrence so that we can properly document your predictions and verify any future claims.
_nigmatic10
2.3 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2011
I can see it now. The neighbors get ugly over the trees blocking the sun at x time of the day.

Really nice with the paint thing though. Huge applications for such a technology. Solar roads,skyscrapers, etc. Anything that can be painted.
finitesolutions
not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
You need electrodes to harvest the electricity and the electronics to smooth it. The demo paint on the University of Notre Dame webpage is half a centimeter square barely visible. Common you need to scale it up better.
rawa1
2 / 5 (4) Dec 22, 2011
I know science progresses at it's own pace but I've read hundreds of articles about tech that never makes it off the web pages here.
You're just too naive. Many of these reports are just BS, the only purpose of which is to get another money for research and development of another similar BS. The efficiency of this solar paint is apparently very low. It doesn't solve the problems with electrodes and their infrastructure. The cadmium selenide is extraordinary toxic compound and it cumulates in life environment. Because the main portion of TCO of solar cells is the price of installation, sometimes it's better to do things properly and to invest into high efficiency cells, than into a bit cheaper, but low efficiency ones. The economy is, what decides if some finding is actually usable or not.
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
Just try to imagine the yellow solar city covered with omnipresent toxic and carcinogenic dust from solar cells eroded. Would you want to live there just for few kilowatts, which could be harvested from cold fusion in much more reliable and cheaper way? Me not.

Such inventions are similar to ideas of nuclear reactor powered cars, developed at the end of 50's.

http://www.nerdmo...on11.jpg
WhiteJim
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
if a 2 square foot solar panel can charge a battery at 10% to 15% efficieny, then this paint at 1% efficiency needs 20 square painted feet to do the same. A house roof at 1000 square feet is then equivalent to 50 small solar panels. If you include your walls, your decks, your driveway, your backyard fence and everything else you can paint ... you should have enough paintable power coverage without improving the efficiency
Sigh
not rated yet Dec 22, 2011
If it's really cheap: Apply. Use until degraded. Scrape off. Repeat.

It contains cadmium. Breathe in a bit of what you scrape off, and you won't repeat very often. We have to hope they can make such paint out of something less toxic.
rawa1
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
The cadmium attacks kidney and it's the source of very stubborn rhinitis and allergic reactions for years after it gets into direct contact with nasal mucosa. It's salts are volatile too in similar way, like the salts of mercury.

http://www.bag.ad...oKSn6A--

The selenium itself is very toxic and volatile too, but the toxic properties of both elements will get compensated a bit, when they're bound together into cadmium selenide. It doesn't apply, when the selenide will undergo degradation at sunlight and gradual oxidation.
antialias_physorg
5 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
Why not intersperse some clear materials so light can diffuse into the paint internally ?

The coat of paint wilbe very thin. Thick layers with 'internally created electrons' won't do you any good because you need to get the electrons from the place where they are produced to the conductive back end. If that layer is too thick then chances are high that it will just recombine with a hole (i.e. no energy gain)

So they say major advance, I bet like everything else I read about it will be decades

This is resaerch. Research is always at least a decade away fom commercialization. If you want to read about upcoming stuff that you can buy next year you need to move to another site.

As for 'predicting': Predicting and doing are two different things. Anyone can predict 3D TV-sets. But actually building one is a wee bit more difficult.
Nerdyguy
1 / 5 (2) Dec 22, 2011
If it's really cheap: Apply. Use until degraded. Scrape off. Repeat.

It contains cadmium. Breathe in a bit of what you scrape off, and you won't repeat very often. We have to hope they can make such paint out of something less toxic.


And hope that nothing you've used it on ever catches fire. Coat the exterior of your house with this stuff and you have a very real problem. Undoubtedly they'll improve the efficiency though and find better materials.
SeeShells
4 / 5 (1) Dec 22, 2011
Personally I think they should use the center dividing line in roads. Use a PV cell and cover it with .. lets say Rhino glass. Do the numbers and it comes in quite respectably. 1 6 foot section I can get about 25 watts or 22,000 watts in a mile and the're 6 lines or 132,000 watts. It can add up for 2,615,870 miles of freeway.
TheGhostofOtto1923
1 / 5 (3) Dec 22, 2011
Wow you're all regular nostradami. who cares who "predicted" what. loads of people have thought about this time and again. and even now there's only a few applications (pardon the pun).

This site is filled with wanna-bes and has-beens. Comments about your own half baked theories and ideas and predictions really fall flat without some real-world examples. And of top of that, it's a bore to read.
So sorry for your inability to recognize sarcasm. They say this is an initial sign of senility? Can you still smell citrus?
Personally I think they should use the center dividing line in roads. Use a PV cell and cover it with .. lets say Rhino glass. Do the numbers and it comes in quite respectably. 1 6 foot section I can get about 25 watts or 22,000 watts in a mile and the're 6 lines or 132,000 watts. It can add up for 2,615,870 miles of freeway.
There was a physorg article on glass-covered roadway cells a year or so ago.
Tomator
not rated yet Jan 02, 2012
Solar paint based on cadmium and selenium might be good for never returning space probes, but not as general purpose solution used on earth. It is too toxic - let's learn from past lessons.