New nanoparticles make solar cells cheaper to manufacture

August 29, 2013
Nanoparticles made by University of Alberta researchers from Earth-abundant elements phosphorus and zinc, means solar cells can be made more affordably. Credit: University of Alberta

University of Alberta researchers have found that abundant materials in the Earth's crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells.

The U of A discovery, several years in the making, is an important step forward in making solar power more accessible to parts of the world that are off the traditional or face high power costs, such as the Canadian North, said researcher Jillian Buriak, a chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, based on the U of A campus.

Buriak and her team have designed nanoparticles that absorb light and from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc. Both materials are more plentiful than scarce materials such as cadmium and free from manufacturing restrictions imposed on lead-based nanoparticles.

"Half the world already lives off the grid, and with demand for electrical power expected to double by the year 2050, it is important that like solar power are made more affordable by lowering the costs of manufacturing," Buriak said.

Her team's research supports a promising approach of making solar cells cheaply using mass manufacturing methods like roll-to-roll printing (as with newspaper presses) or spray-coating (similar to automotive painting). "Nanoparticle-based 'inks' could be used to literally paint or print solar cells or precise compositions," Buriak said.

The team was able to develop a synthetic method to make zinc phosphide nanoparticles and demonstrated that the particles can be dissolved to form an ink and processed to make that are responsive to light.

Buriak and her team are now experimenting with the , spray-coating them onto large to test their efficiency. The team has applied for a provisional patent and has secured funding to enable the next step to scale-up manufacture.

The research, which was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, is published in the latest issue of ACS Nano.

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

Related Stories

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

December 21, 2011

(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.

Nanoparticle opens the door to clean-energy alternatives

June 13, 2013

(Phys.org) —Cheaper clean-energy technologies could be made possible thanks to a new discovery. Research team members led by Raymond Schaak, a professor of chemistry at Penn State University, have found that an important ...

New technology to enable development of 4G solar cells

July 29, 2013

Professor Ravi Silva of the University of Surrey's Advanced Technology Institute has identified the range of combinations of organic and inorganic materials that will underpin new 4th generation solar cell technology – ...

Recommended for you

Reshaping the solar spectrum to turn light to electricity

July 28, 2015

When it comes to installing solar cells, labor cost and the cost of the land to house them constitute the bulk of the expense. The solar cells—made often of silicon or cadmium telluride—rarely cost more than 20 percent ...

Could stronger, tougher paper replace metal?

July 24, 2015

Researchers at the University of Maryland recently discovered that paper made of cellulose fibers is tougher and stronger the smaller the fibers get. For a long time, engineers have sought a material that is both strong (resistant ...

Wafer-thin material heralds future of wearable technology

July 27, 2015

UOW's Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials (ISEM) has successfully pioneered a way to construct a flexible, foldable and lightweight energy storage device that provides the building blocks for next-generation ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.