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Power Print Out

Research scientist at two different universities are on the same path to
developing an inexpensive process that will allow you to paint on or print
out your own solar cells. Imagine, a simple and inexpensive energy alternative
for households around the world.

Last year it was reported that researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology
(NJIT) developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on
flexible plastic sheets. Lead researcher, Professor Somenath Mitra said, “The
process is simple, someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these
solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap
the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power
stations. Solar cells can be inexpensively printed or simply painted on exterior
building walls and/or roof tops.”

The solar cell developed at NJIT uses a carbon nanotube complex, which is a
molecular configuration of carbon in a cylindrical shape.  Scientists estimate
nanotubes to be 50,000 times smaller than a human hair. A nanotube can conduct
current better than any conventional electrical wire including copper. The carbon
nanotubes are combined with tiny carbon Buckyballs (fullerenes) to form snake
like structures. Buckyballs trap electrons, although they can’t make electrons
flow. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the
electrons. Nanotubes, behaving like copper wires, will then be able to make the
electrons or current flow.

In the past month it was reported that South Dakota State University research
scientists are working with new materials that can make devices used for
converting sunlight to electricity cheaper and more efficiently. SDSU assistant
professor Qiquan Qiao said organic photovoltaics, or OPVs, are less expensive
to produce than traditional devices for harvesting solar energy.

The objective is to find new materials with variable band gaps and for cost
effective photovoltaic devices. Band gap determines how much solar energy the
photovoltaic device can absorb and convert into electricity. Visible sunlight
contains only about 50 percent of the total solar energy. That means the sun is
giving off just as much non-visible energy as visible energy.

So, their approach is to work on synthesizing novel polymers with variable band
gaps, including high, medium and low-band gap varieties, to absorb the full
spectrum of sunlight. This can double the light harvesting or absorption.

These variable band gap polymers are used to build multi-junction polymer
photovoltaics. These devices use multiple layers of polymer/fullerene films
that are tuned to absorb different spectral regions of solar energy.  An organic
polymer, or a long, flexible chain of carbon-based material, is used as a
substrate on which semiconducting materials are applied as a solution using a
technique similar to inkjet printing

Photons that are not absorbed by the first film layer pass through to be absorbed
by the following layers.  The devices can harvest photons from ultraviolet to
visible to infrared in order to efficiently convert the full spectrum of solar
energy to electricity.

So, it looks like different research teams are heading towards the same
remarkable results. Good for them. Better for us. I can’t wait to go out
and paint me a power station.

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7 Responses to “Power Print Out”

  1. Heath Says:

    That is cool.

  2. Linda Says:

    hi Heath … it is isn’t it! just wish they would hurry up and let us get our hands on it!:)

  3. wilson Says:

    Yep, I have read this article at one of the famous science and technology site, and I was kind of shocked of the size of nanotubes…

    wilsons last blog post..Do Mind About The Temperature of Your Cooking Oil!

  4. Linda Says:

    Hi Wilson …. The size is amazing. I cannot even imagine how to look at it muchless see it!

  5. Barbara Swafford Says:

    Hi Linda,

    What a fascinating article. Can you imagine how this could revolutionize solar power and reduce our dependence on oil?

    Barbara Swaffords last blog post..Self Promotion – From The Archives

  6. Linda Says:

    Hi Barbara … Yea, I am excited as well. I got that Jetsons feeling like the future is almost here!

  7. Says:

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