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247: PV paint

Problem:

Installing solar panels is an expensive, laborious process, a fact that keeps many homeowners from making the switch.

Solution:

PV (Photovoltaic) paint could be applied to any surface that will capture energy from the sun and transform it into electricity.


The most common type of PV paint uses colloidal quantum dots. These are semiconductor crystals that are already used in solar panels, as well as LEDs and computers. The University of Toronto created an iteration of solar paint wherein they sprayed these dots atom by atom onto a backing. This backing could then be rolled up, sent to the place where it is to be installed, and then applied like wallpaper.

At the University of Buffalo, in 2013, researchers announced that they had made progress using plasmonic-enhanced materials. The team noted, however, that the thin nature of paint makes absorbing as much light difficult.

Four years later a research team led by Torben Daeneke at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology demonstrated solar paint that splits water particles to harness the hydrogen. Wai-Lun Chan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of Kansas has been working with other researchers to explore how to use organic semiconductors to produce PV solar cells. The best method to commercialise the right formulae for PV paint has still to be found.

Visit us tomorrow for Solution 248: Mater-Bi bioplastic

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