Thursday, December 29, 2011

Solar paint could transform houses into giant electricity generators

t's common to see houses with solar panels on the roof harvesting energy to power household electricity, and if lucky the electrical grid. Now, a team from the University of Notre Dame is swinging back around on the idea of solar paint, and using semi-conducting particles to produce energy. This paint would be cheap enough to cover your entire house and turn it into a massive solar powered generator.

The goal was to find a way to move beyond silicon based solar technology. The team centered in on nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide, coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. The particles were mixed with a water-alcohol base to create a paste.

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

While this is a huge stride in re-envisioning solar power there are still some hurdles. According to 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), which is leading the research, "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 solar cells."

"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," he added.

The team has christened the new paint "Sun-Believable and in addition to looking at increasing the efficiency of the product they will also measure stability. Their work on the solar paint has been published in the research journal ACS Nano.

While it is still early days, it does sound like the paint has a bright future.

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