Nanotech could make solar energy as easy and cheap as growing grass

Sep 17, 2007

Scientists are working to produce cheap, sustainable solar energy by imitating nature. Nanotechnology researchers like California Institute of Technology professor Nate Lewis are exploring nanoscale materials that mimic the architecture of grass and photosynthesis to capture and store the sun’s energy.

A new podcast looks at how Dr. Lewis and his CalTech research team are trying to imbed tiny nanoparticles into simple, inexpensive everyday products like house paint and roof tiles to revolutionize the way solar energy is produced.

“More energy from the sun hits the earth in an hour than all the energy consumed by human beings on our planet in an entire year. So, if we are going to find an efficient, environmentally-friendly substitute for fossil fuels, it makes sense to exploit the sun,” says Dr. Lewis. “Nanotechnology offers us a way, in principle, to make very cheap materials—like the paint you buy at Home Depot—act as solar cells and batteries.”

Ordinary-looking, nano-enabled house paint, roofs or shingles could replace today’s black, glasslike photovoltaic cells which are usually composed of crystalline silicon and are unwieldy, unsightly and very expensive to manufacture. In addition to homes, this innovative technology someday could power cell phones, laptops and even automobiles.

Listen to Dr. Lewis talk about his research in the latest episode of an exciting new series of podcasts, Trips to the NanoFrontier. Produced by the Wilson Center’s Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies, these podcasts are available online at www.penmedia.org/podcast , or directly from Apple’s iTunes music store.

Source: Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies

Explore further: Tough foam from tiny sheets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Nanoparticle opens the door to clean-energy alternatives

Jun 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 ...

The nuclear reactor in your basement

Feb 19, 2013

How would you like to replace your water heater with a nuclear reactor? That's what Joseph Zawodny, a senior scientist at NASA's Langley Research Center, hopes to help bring about. It would tap the enormous ...

Recommended for you

Tough foam from tiny sheets

4 hours ago

Tough, ultralight foam of atom-thick sheets can be made to any size and shape through a chemical process invented at Rice University.

Graphene surfaces on photonic racetracks

Jul 28, 2014

In an article published in Optics Express, scientists from The University of Manchester describe how graphene can be wrapped around a silicon wire, or waveguide, and modify the transmission of light through it.

Simulating the invisible

Jul 28, 2014

Panagiotis Grammatikopoulos in the OIST Nanoparticles by Design Unit simulates the interactions of particles that are too small to see, and too complicated to visualize. In order to study the particles' behavior, he uses ...

Building 'invisible' materials with light

Jul 28, 2014

A new method of building materials using light, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could one day enable technologies that are often considered the realm of science fiction, such as invisibility ...

User comments : 0