Solar panels have been around for years, however the installation and cost have been one of the downfalls of this technology, especially for home owners and construction companies. However there are several options for paint-on solar cells. Swansea University has developed a paint-on solar cell that can be applied to steel during the manufacturing process. Another group of scientists have created spray-on solar cells made with a plastic composite that can collect both the visible and infrared spectrum.
Swansea University’s paint-on solar cells have the same capability as silicon solar panel, and is based on dye-sensitised molecules of titanium dioxide pigment.
“The pigment catalyzes the release of electrons from the substrate towards the electrolyte layer which collects them, thus delivering power into an electronic circuit before returning to the titanium dioxide pigment.” [Source: Softpedia]
According to the scientists at Swansea, the paint is better at catching low-light radiation, making it good for countries like the UK. The university is working in conjunction with Corus Colours (the leading steel producers in the UK), to produce solar-painted flexible steel at a rate of 30-40m2 a minute. Currently, Corus produces 100 million square meters of steel a year. Should all of the produced steel have solar paint on them, they can generate as much electricity as 50 wind farms [Source: Swansea]. By integrating solar cells into the very infrastructure of buildings and cars, Corus and Swansea can change the way many people view construction and automotive companies.
Besides Swansea, other scientists have also introduced solar paint. A group of researchers, including Ted Sargent, have created spray-on solar paint. Created from a plastic material, this composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as portable electricity. While using plastic to capture solar energy is not new, this particular composite is one of the few solar cells that captures both visible and infrared light [Source: National Geographic]. One of the main advantages of the spray-on paint versus the paint only applied to steel is that there is more portability in the electricity. For example: articles of clothes sprayed with the composite can harness the energy and wirelessly charge electronics. These solar cells could also significantly reduce the cost of buying solar energy and displace power plants that emit greenhouse gases, like coal factories.
The advancement in technology has greatly increased the accessibility and decreased the cost of sustainable energy. With the addition of two different types of solar paint, we can continue towards a more sustainable future.