Solar Paint is ‘Sun-Believable’

Monday, January 2, 2012 @ 02:01 PM gHale

The next paint job for your house may be able to generate electricity to power the appliances and equipment on the inside.

Sound like a pipe dream? Not so say a team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame who made a major breakthrough by creating an inexpensive “solar paint” that uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy.

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“We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology,” said Prashant Kamat, the John A. Zahm Professor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry and an investigator in Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology (NDnano), who leads the research.

“By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment.”

The team’s search for the new material centered on nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. The particles ended up suspended in a water-alcohol mixture to create a paste.

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

“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,” Kamat said.

“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.”

“That’s why we’ve christened the new paint, Sun-Believable,” he said.

Kamat and his team also plan to study ways to improve the stability of the new material.

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