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Cheap, Spray-on Solar Cells Developed By Canadian Researchers

Science & Tech  (tags: discovery, solar, solar panels, science, NewTechnology, research, concept, design, Gizmos, study, technology, tech, energy, Canada )

- 1871 days ago -
Silicon-free solar cells, light and flexible enough to roll up or use as window blinds, are under development at a University of Alberta lab.


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Michael O (176)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 6:47 am
The solar cells are made using nanoparticles — microscopic particles just 30 to 40 atoms across — that are very cheap to produce from zinc and phosphorus, said Jillian Buriak, a University of Alberta chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute of Nanotechnology.

“We turn these things into inks or paints that you can spray coat onto plastics,” Buriak told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald in an interview that airs Saturday.

The resulting solar cells can be made extremely light and flexible compared to conventional silicon solar cells.

The zinc phosphide nanoparticle solar cells are also cheaper than conventional solar cells because the process used to make them is very low-energy, Buriak said.

Silicon solar cells are made from sand in a process that involves heating the materials repeatedly to very high temperatures – around 1000 C. As a result, Buriak estimated, it takes three to six years for the resulting solar cell to generate the amount of power used to manufacture it in the first place.

On the other hand, the solar nanoparticles are “actually made in a standard, bubbling pot glassware set up in the lab — the traditional image of chemistry — ” from elements that are very abundant, Buriak said.

Buriak and her colleagues published a description of their solar cell-making process in a recent issue of the scientific journal ACS Nano.

So far, her team has only made very small solar cells from their zinc phosphide nanoparticles, but they recently received funding from the Alberta government to apply the coating to larger sheets of plastic.

“We actually use spray coaters that you can buy from an automobile touch-up shop for paint,” Buriak said.

The efficiency of the solar cells is “not great,” she acknowledged, but that’s something her team is working on.

The fact that they’re “so cheap to make,” she added, means they will only have to reach 7.5 per cent efficiency before they will be commercially competitive with conventional energy sources such as coal-electric generation.

Buriak's research group has previously worked on other kinds of cheap, spray-on solar cell materials, such as flexible polymers.

Jonathan Smithsonian (3)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 6:58 am

David C (25)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 7:23 am
sooooo cheap to make, “actually made in a standard, bubbling pot glassware set up in the lab" -- probably "too cheap to meter"

Past Member (0)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 9:38 am
Interesting. But once China gets it's stinky hands on this it'll be in all dollar stores with a ''Made in China"" sticker...thx Michael

Terry V (30)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 6:05 pm
Thank you and SHARED

Roger G (148)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 6:16 pm
noted, thanks

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 7:41 pm

Lynn Squance (235)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 8:10 pm
Fascinating indeed! It is nice to know that the Alberta government can support alternatives to tar sands bitumen! If I understand this correctly, and I think I do, this will revolutionise the energy industry. I don't think that Big Oil or the likes of the Koch brothers in the US will like this. Wouldn't surprise me if they tried to buy up any producers or scuttle research just to keep their pockets full.

Maureen C (4)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 8:30 pm
Amazing and marvellous! Any small step that can reduce our reliance on burning petroleum or coal for energy is a good thing, and now we will have a cheaper and easier-to-use solar energy source

The other amazing thing is the number of inventions and technological innovations that have come out of a relatively small population of Canada -- the list is surprising. Must be the free health care ;-)

Kayleigh Harter (9)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 9:07 pm
So cool! I hope they become available to the general public soon.

Robert O (12)
Sunday October 6, 2013, 10:49 pm
Interesting. Thanks Michael.

Frances Darcy (124)
Monday October 7, 2013, 3:53 am
Now that is good technology.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Monday October 7, 2013, 4:32 am

Kathleen R (138)
Monday October 7, 2013, 12:24 pm
Read & noted. Will be interesting to see how it works out.

Jamie Clemons (282)
Monday October 7, 2013, 1:27 pm

Birgit W (160)
Monday October 7, 2013, 4:02 pm
Interesting, thank you Michael O.

Julie W (33)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 1:09 am
I hope they get the funding for developing this.

Jeanne R (1203)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 6:47 am
Interesting. Thanks.

Kerrie G (116)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 11:13 am
Noted, thanks.

Jonathan Harper (0)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 12:42 pm

Beth Tatum (95)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 1:01 pm
Amazing concept, can't wait to try one!

Karen Kersten Chestney (112)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 2:32 pm
WOW ! Brilliant idea----love to see this advance & get to the international market place. Thanks for sharing.

Shirley B (5)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 5:46 pm
Interesting. Hopefully it wont be bought off by Big Oil.

Robert Hardy (68)
Tuesday October 8, 2013, 9:05 pm
A small step in the right direction.

Past Member (0)
Saturday October 12, 2013, 6:36 am
Thanks for sharing.

Hannah Mawson (0)
Sunday October 13, 2013, 9:54 am
This sounds great, very exciting.

Sergio Padilla (65)
Thursday October 17, 2013, 11:34 am
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