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Power Science

Cheap Paint-able Solar Cells Developed 254

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the finally-a-use-for-fullerenes dept.
Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. According to the lead researcher, "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations." The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) to form snake-like structures. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons. The article abstract is available through the Journal of Materials Chemistry, with an illustration of the technology."
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Cheap Paint-able Solar Cells Developed

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  • Interesting (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MyLongNickName (822545) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:51PM (#19922169) Journal
    It will take a drop in price before solar panels finally hit the big time. But boy, when they do drop expect an explosion of uses.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by russ1337 (938915)
      It will take a drop in price before solar panels finally hit the big time

      I currently live in Texas and have had a summer electricity bill of over $400 for one month, last year. It won't take TXU's "increased prices due to demand" *cough* gouging *cough* much more, for me to splash out 8 grand for 2 large solar cells just to power a mid-size stand alone Cooling/heating unit....

      The lower the cost of the panels just recoups my investment earlier, but its almost worth doing for the sheer smugness gained
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by fractoid (1076465)
        I just thought of this so it may not work, but... maybe instead of 8 grand for solar cells, spend 2 grand on mirrors and 1-inch-think polystyrene sheets? Cover your external walls and roof with mirrored insulation and I'd imagine you'd drop your cooling power requirements by an order of magnitude.

        I know I know, damn hippies and their passive thermally-efficient spacecake-looking houses... :P
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by arivanov (12034)
          It does. I nearly put airconditioning in my house 3 years ago. Having the walls, loft and roof insulated to a higher standard more or less did with that idea. It no longer warms up to the same extent (and cools down to the same extent in winter).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Bob-taro (996889)

        ...It won't take TXU's "increased prices due to demand" *cough* gouging *cough* much more,...

        It's easy to throw around accusations of gouging (and I can't say for sure it's NOT going on), but utilities do in fact buy power from the grid to meet demand peaks. There is actually a "market" for power, and like anything else, a lot of demand will raise the price. Many states have laws restricting how much the utilities can increase the rates charged to customers, but you're going to pay for it one way or the other - either you'll pay a lot more during the hottest months, or you'll pay a little more

    • by Xymor (943922) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:00PM (#19922677)
      And then those danm hippies will say we're overusing the Sun's light.

      I'm not a republican, I'm just joking.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Well, yeah, you can't just go around changing the planet's albedo by spreading solar cells everywhere and expect to get away with it! What would Al Gore say?
      • And then those danm hippies will say we're overusing the Sun's light.

        I'm not a republican, I'm just joking.

        When you see this type of logic and it is meant, it's very revealing that they aren't listening to what you say, only what you sound like when you say it. "If you want me to do X, and I do X, you'll just say I should be doing Y because you complain and complain and that's all you do- I have therefore categorized you as an idiot or [member of disliked group] and so anything you say about X must not be t
        • by Yetihehe (971185)

          "If you want me to do X, and I do X, you'll just say I should be doing Y because you complain and complain and that's all you do- I have therefore categorized you as an idiot or [member of disliked group] and so anything you say about X must not be true." Anyone who brings it up is automatically an idiot whose opinions can be disregarded.
          It's so meta, it hurts my head.
          • I think he jus phrased it a bit too verbosely. He said that some people are bastards who are never happy.
            • by Yetihehe (971185)
              I know what he wants to say, but it can be read as ( (anyone who says someone is stupid and shouldn't be listened) is stupid and shouldn't be listened ).
              • Yep, saying something like if someone disagrees with you on one topic then you'll stereotype them and just not listen to them again. Of course if someone starts saying other people are stupid and shouldn't be listened to, it shows they have a lack of respect for others, and maybe that in turn means that their opinions aren't worth listening too... :p
              • (any argument that says (someone is stupid and shouldn't be listened to) is stupid and shouldn't be listened to)

                That said, I do disagree with this statement, as it suggests that every time the "boy cries wolf", you should go check to see if there's actually a wolf. There are certain sites (e.g., junkscience.com) that I no longer bother trying to understand articles from because every time I have, it's turned out to be a waste of my time.

                • by Yetihehe (971185)
                  "All generalizations are wrong. Including this one.", but I don't remember who said that.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by stor (146442)
          no swimming pool when the A/C is on.

          How about skipping the photovoltaic slick and just jump in the pool? ;)

          -Stor
        • "There is no messenger you cannot impeach with an attitude like that, and by impeaching the right messengers you're free to construct any sort of alternate paper-thin reality you want that can exclude any X you choose.....People who think like this drive me crazy. And there are so many of them."

          You are right on the verge of realising we are ALL part of the monkeysphere [pointlesswasteoftime.com] and that there are as many "alternate realities" as there are people on the planet, many more if you consider other species.
          • You are right on the verge of realising we are ALL part of the monkeysphere [pointlesswasteoftime.com] and that there are as many "alternate realities" as there are people on the planet, many more if you consider other species.

            <soapbox>My relatively new pet peeve is when people use the word "monkey" to mean "ape". That link you provide keeps talking about monkeys while showing pictures of apes (e.g., chimpanzees and orangutans). They even call us monkeys. We're apes, not monkeys. Both apes and monkeys (as well as lemurs) are

    • This recent article mentions the efficiency factor is getting better and it has tried this method out:
      http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19044/ [technologyreview.com]
      Unlike the theoretical method mentioned by slash dot.
      Disclaimer: I am a graduate of UCSB so I am biased.
  • by eclectro (227083) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:52PM (#19922175)
    I knew that they would come up with cheap paintable solar cells. I'll pick them up in my flying car.
    • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:18PM (#19922383) Homepage
      What is conspicuously missing from that article is any kind of a figure for the conversion efficiency of the devices they're making. Lots of researchers have been working on fullerines. What efficiency are they achieving? 5 percent? 1 percent? A tenth of a percent? Lacking any kind of number for efficiency-- preferably an efficiency measurement verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory-- tends to make me think that this is theory with no actual devices manufactured at all.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by catprog (849688)
        If you have a large enough area then efficiency doesn't matter only cost per watt.
        • by mechsoph (716782) on Friday July 20, 2007 @01:13AM (#19923445)
          A roof and back yard are only so big.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by Maxo-Texas (864189)
            You can do a pretty good job with a 15'x30' (450 sq') area of solar cells.
            An average house has about 2000 sq' (perhaps 1k sq' facing south).

            So they would need to be at least about 50% as efficient as the current cells.

            The big factor is cost. If we can get them down to 5k instead of 50k for enough cells for a typical house, it changes everything.
          • by MillionthMonkey (240664) on Friday July 20, 2007 @02:11AM (#19923745)
            Yeah but you should see my Hummer H2!
      • Most solar panels have an efficiency of about 12%. Even if these are only around 5%, they could still be useful. Part of the problem with photovoltaics is that the energy-cost of producing them is not much lower than the energy they produce. If these are cheap, and produce more energy than is used to make them, then it's a win. Even if it only reduces your net energy consumption by a few percent, it could have a large global impact. Remember the statistic about being able to shut down a coal power plan
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Tablizer (95088)
      I knew that they would come up with cheap paintable solar cells. I'll pick them up in my flying car.

      For the car?

      "Cloud. Oh fuck!"

           
    • by 3waygeek (58990)
      You bought one of these [gizmodo.com]?
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:55PM (#19922209) Homepage Journal
    I suppose. It's so strange these days. You see people doing research, then posing for a photo and making a press release. Then.. nothing. The promises and predictions don't amount to actual products that people can buy. But I suppose they do get you more grant money.

    • by dido (9125)

      Well, in the absence of grant money the possibility for anyone making it from research idea to actual product that is anywhere close to the promises and predictions become zero, as opposed to merely remote.

      • by QuantumG (50515)
        research idea to actual product == venture capital.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by arivanov (12034)
          Not really. It takes on the average 5-12 years for most ideas based on discoveries in physics, chemistry or math to start raking in profits. Biotech is slightly better, but not by much. These timeframes are way beyond any VC patience. The only way to finance research that takes that long is either if you are working on a state grant or if you are working for a big corp with a state-like research division (blue 2 and 3 letter words come to mind).
          VCs are usefully once you have a prototype and a proof of conce
          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by zCyl (14362)
            And government grants do not like to fund projects that are moving into the product phase, because they want businesses to pick up the slack there. So a lot of products fall into the moneyless black hole in between proof of principle and product.
            • Just to elaborate (for those not in the know), the objective of phase III [sbir.net] of SBIR grants [nih.gov] is "for the small business concern to pursue with non-SBIR/STTR funds the commercialization objectives resulting from the Phase I/II R/R&D activities." (emphasis mine)
    • by donaldm (919619)
      If you are the head of a research group and you have something interesting and not necessarily commercially viable at the time there is nothing like approaching the press to drum up support to get the appropriate funding or that crucial extra grant. A little bit of showmanship goes a long way, especially when that translates to funding for a pet project. Of course having commercial possibilities is also a very good selling point as well. While what I have said may appear cynical to some it does happen, howe
    • by Jessta (666101)
      It's probably related to patents and funding.
      A company comes up with a great idea, but lacks the funding to manufacture it on a large scale. Because of patents nobody else is allowed to.
    • by yog (19073) *

      I suppose. It's so strange these days. You see people doing research, then posing for a photo and making a press release. Then.. nothing. The promises and predictions don't amount to actual products that people can buy. But I suppose they do get you more grant money.

      Well this has been going on for years; it's nothing new. What's new today is the President's ambivalence if not downright hostility toward science, an attitude shared by a frighteningly large percentage of the population. There was a time when science was the religion in the U.S.; generations were taught that science was the key to better living, greater material wealth and national strength. Today there is a disconnect between Joe and Mary Sixpack and the scientific community, despite the manifold dazz

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:59PM (#19922249)
    Hopefully this will make our tanks, planes and kill-bots better by reducing the mass/volume required for energy storage, thus increasing the space available for bullets, nukes and sharp sticks.
  • by drphil (320469) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:03PM (#19922279)

    "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers." ...
    "The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) ..."

    Whooboy! I wonder what that print cartridge is going to cost!
    • by ChromeAeonium (1026952) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:22PM (#19922425)
      About twice as much as a printer with the cartridge.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Adriax (746043)
        Though it'll still be cheaper than a color cartridge from HP.
      • To be fair, most printers that are/were cheaper than their ink cartridges did't come with a full cartridge, only a sampler (1/4 or less of the ink than a real cartridge).
    • by toQDuj (806112)
      That's my thought exactly. Last I heard, buckyballs were one of the most expensive products on this here planet right now.

      B.
      • Buckyballs are relatively easy to produce. Most soot contains some, although extracting them isn't completely trivial, and the process for producing them basically involves heating and then cooling some carbon. Carbon nanotubes, a close relative of the buckyball, are much harder to produce, and the difficulty increases significantly when you want to make them longer.
  • by Frogbert (589961) <.frogbert. .at. .gmail.com.> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:10PM (#19922327)
    I'm going to hold out on commenting until Unicorn confirms that the story is legit and that he isn't going to post a retraction.
  • by GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon@@@gmail...com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:13PM (#19922361)

    The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) to form snake-like structures. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons.

    Does it seem to anyone else like carbon nanotubes are modern snake oil? Seriously, is there anything they CAN'T do?
  • Nah... not yet. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by plowboylifestyle (862919) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:22PM (#19922433)
    The problem with the article is that it uses the words "have developed" as in "have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets" when in reality it sounds more like "have an idea for" or "have developed a concept for" pending the advancement of material science. I seems they haven't built or tested..I mean painted a prototype, so the article is getting ahead of itself a bit maybe.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:27PM (#19922473) Homepage

    First, the article is the NJIT press release [njit.edu], with essentially the same text and pictures.

    Second, this is yet another of those overhyped "minor advance in materials science" articles. The abstract for the technical article says only "The results indicate that C60 decorated SWCNTs are promising additives for performance enhancement of polymer photovoltaic cells." There's no mention of "paintable solar cells".

    "Paintable solar cells" have been talked up before (they were mentioned on Slashdot two years ago [slashdot.org]) but nobody has actually made that work. There's this fantasy that you somehow spray something on your roof and get power out. But it's not likely to work.

    Some guy at the University of Toronto has been hping this for several years now. [businessweek.com] He got quite a bit of press in 2005. But his actual cells were, according to Business Week, 3 orders of magnitude worse than existing technology, were more expensive to make, and had a limited lifetime.

    I was much more impressed when I went to a talk by Mark Pinto, the VP of Applied Materials' solar unit. He spoke for an hour and a half, and never mentioned "eco" or "green". He's a manufacturing exec, and he sees this as a manufacturing cost problem. They know what to do; they just need to do it bigger, faster, and cheaper. Which is what Applied Materials does, very successfully, for ICs and flat panel displays. He has charts showing that in high-sun areas like southern Spain, solar power can now be cheaper than existing electricity sources. So they're building a big solar panel plant there. As the materials improve, they'll convert to new materials and processes, just like they do for ICs. And as with ICs and flat panel displays, they expect to follow the cost curve down.

    Their existing generation of solar panel fab is derived from their flat panel display fab equipment, but they expect that, over time, those technologies will diverge. They'd like a roll-to-roll solar cell process, and bought a company with one that sort of works, but if it doesn't, they think they can do OK with something that works like a huge wafer fab, with each wafer covering five square meters.

    • It seems the we make advances in ways to use energy and get those advances to market much faster that we do for ways of producing energy. I guess it may simply be that energy using products is where the money is and while energy production from non-renewable sources remains cheap there will be little commercial incentive to try and produce something that will compete with them.
    • by westlake (615356)
      There's no mention of "paintable solar cells".

      Painting does not appeal. It suggests a short-lived, labor-intensive, installation.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jambox (1015589)
      Yeah I've always felt that solar panels are similar enough to ICs that the same thing should happen to costs - once the initial investment is there to set up a large fab, the marginal costs should be minuscule. OK, it's not exactly the same since solar panels are physically large and ICs are tiny, but it's not like the materials are particularly expensive, AFAIK.

      CCDs are probably closer since they both use the pv effect, and how much did a 10Mp image sensor cost only 10 years ago? Sh1tloads, if they were ev
  • Enough energy? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by nebaz (453974) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:27PM (#19922475)
    One thing I've always been curious about (and it may seem obvious, though I don't know), is whether or not we could subsist off solar energy, if we could use it efficiently. Answer: oh yeah! (easily)

    From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

    4.26×10^20 J, the yearly energy consumption of the world as of 2001

    5.5×10^ 24 J, the total energy from the Sun that strikes the face of the Earth each year

    We only use about 1/10000 of the total solar energy (as of 2001).
    • Re:Enough energy? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:38PM (#19922537) Journal
      You mean 1/10000 is used for human power, right? Nearly all the power is used to keep the earth at its current temperature, else it would drift towards zero (okay, 2.7, but who's counting). Also, much of the useful energy is used to convert CO2 to O2, and in the process store C in H in various forms for powering the metabolisms of the earth's inhabitants. Luckily, those are overlapping purposes, as is solar collection for discretionary energy use by humans.

      We already subsist off of solar energy, for the most part - it's just our source happens to be stored a long time ago. Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy. It's not so much the energy, it's the ability to store it in usable forms.
      • Re:Enough energy? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by PapayaSF (721268) on Friday July 20, 2007 @12:12AM (#19923099) Journal

        Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy.

        Everything else you say is true, but to nitpick: isn't nuclear power another form of "stored" solar energy? Those heavy elements were originally formed in stars that blew up. Nuclear power is solar energy from dead suns!

        Cool to think about, and a point to confound anti-nuclear power types....

        • by fractoid (1076465)
          True, but meaningless except in the "big picture" sense that Calvin usually uses to get out of homework. All forms of energy are 'stored', having been created, best as we can tell, at the creation of the universe by agents or mechanisms unknown.
        • Funny, I don't feel confounded...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Danny Rathjens (8471)
        Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy

        Tidal power, too. :) It comes from the rotational energy of earth and orbit of the moon.
        Actually, solar energy *is* nuclear since stars are big fusion reactors. :)
      • by evilviper (135110)

        Nearly all the power is used to keep the earth at its current temperature, else it would drift towards zero

        Err, no. As a matter of fact, only a fraction of that energy is absorbed across the earth. On average, less than 1/3rd in-fact.
    • by evought (709897) <evought@pobo x . c om> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:13PM (#19922769) Homepage Journal
      Electric lighting is much more efficient in terms of lumens per BTU than a candle or kerosene lamp, so one would think that people who get electricity and electric lighting to replace their candles and lamps reduce their energy usage. In fact, what happens is that their usage goes up by an order of magnitude. When folks in third world countries use candles and oil lamps, they maximize their use of sunlight, only use light sources when necessary and often for task lighting, take advantage of full moons, and watch consumption closely. With electricity, they use bright area lights for task work, leave lights on in adjacent (or even unoccupied) rooms, and other things unimaginable to them just months before.

      The reverse case, living on a battery bank and solar panel, follows a similar pattern. When living on battery, tracking your power levels becomes second nature. You become much more aware of what you are using and start to make trade-offs in your mind: do I really want to watch that movie and draw down the battery bank when I could just as easily read a book (or go to bed at dark and get up earlier, or actually talk to my wife, or...) It is not a matter of suffering or 'making do', but just finding you don't need as much as you thought you did. In the summer when the battery banks are overflowing, you splurge, like running the ice cream maker.

      Having gone back and forth between these worlds a few times, I am very aware of the power I expend. Right now, my wife and I have one light bulb (a CFL) on in the entire house. There have been times and places that even burning a single light this long after dark would have been unusual.

      So, yes, solar panels can provide enough power to run your life, particularly if you make the logical adjustments to living with a variable and finite source of power. We get so used to flipping a switch and not thinking about where the power comes from, that we expect the exact same out of renewable power sources. It also means that we are horrible at dealing with emergencies or changes of fortune. But we don't have to live that way.
    • What's more, much of the energy we consume is wasted because we use heat engines to convert it to more useful forms. So, using photovoltaics, we skip that step http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/04/green-numbers . html [blogspot.com] so things actually look even better than your calculation suggests.
      --
      Register your home for solar: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
    • by ceoyoyo (59147)
      Don't forget to take the average calorie consumption, convert to proper units and multiply by the world population. Throw in some animals and plants for good measure too.

      Interesting... even with 100% efficient solar cells we might NOT be able to provide our energy needs with the amount of sunlight that falls on our planet. I wouldn't have thought.
  • Very promising. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jshriverWVU (810740)
    Glad to see photovoltaics doing well, while this is a welcome advancement. I'd personally love to see more juice per square CM of solar cells. So instead of painting my house with cells just to power my TV, I'd rather have a dense 1 foot square solar cell powerful enough to power my TV and computer.
    • Re:Very promising. (Score:4, Informative)

      by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:30PM (#19922871)
      unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficency
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        I'd rather have a dense 1 foot square solar cell powerful enough to power my TV and computer.
        unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficiency
        That's easy - just make the TV and computer more efficient. The market is already going down that path.
        • by TeknoHog (164938)

          unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficiency
          That's easy - just make the TV and computer more efficient. The market is already going down that path.
          True. On a sunny day, you get roughly 100 W of sunlight per square foot. Enough to power either my desktop (including the display) or my laptop, with a TV tuner -- if you could get that 100% efficiency.
    • by Lehk228 (705449)
      cheap and sloppy is a far better way to go with solar energy collection. if you can lower costs enough to put crappy collector everywhere you can squeeze more light out of the day than an expensive collector will get due to angles and shadows. a good collector on the roof will be weak during morning or evening, and totally useless during the other. a coat of paint on the house and roof will get fairly decent angles all day and would be less likely to have a noticable loss of output if a leaf pod falls on
    • by Andy Dodd (701)
      I'd rather have it the other way.

      Rather than having a small, super-expensive, super-efficient panel, I'd rather have a panel with much less efficiency than current cells but much higher watts-per-dollar rating.

      The constant increases in silicon cell efficiency are great for space stations, but for those of us on the surface of the planet, we need a breakthrough in watts-per-dollar that isn't vaporware. There's no shortage of space to put solar cells (building roofs, car roofs, etc.), but there's a shortage
  • I'm sick of seeing another "cheap solar cells!" article with no substance. The editors should stop approving these types of stories until they get an article that includes purchasing information.
  • First off, organic photovoltaics based on polythiophene have been around for a few years now; it's a very promising technology, but for now the energy conversions seen are around 5% at best. That of course may be suitable if these things can be made cheaply enough to be installed everywhere.

    This discovery builds on experiments using fullerenes and their derivatives as electron acceptors for organic semiconductors like polythiophene, and the use of a carbon nanotube a a molecular wire to cart away electro

  • Specs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:39PM (#19922917) Homepage Journal
    What are the specs for this material? How many W per m^2 can the paint generate under the 1KW:m^2 of "solar noon"? How many joules does it take to manufacture the coatings, how many joules to apply them from, say, a big "inkjet" printer? How long do they last?

    Therefore, what is the total energy budget of this material?

    If they have to be replaced frequently, produce low wattage, and cost a lot of energy to produce and deploy, then silicon PV cells that last 35+ years at 15-25% efficiency might still be better, even though the silicon cells cost a lot of energy to produce, deploy, maintain and recycle. Or maybe this tech is better.

    I wish every journalist covering the accelerating solar power industry would always answer those basic questions. Otherwise, it's just science fiction dressed up as propaganda.
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:55PM (#19923007)
    The paper referred to in the headline article and journal abstract is available here on the researchers' site [rutgers.edu].

    The paper answers some of the questions that others have posed in this thread, particularly about the efficiency of the process achieved so far (0.57%). These are their conclusions:

    Conclusions

    In conclusion, we have successfully fabricated polymer photovoltaic
    devices based on C60-modified SWCNTs and a conjugated
    polymer P3HT. The composites were made by first
    microwave irradiating a mixture of SWCNT-water solution and
    C60 solution in toluene, followed by adding a conjugated polymer
    P3HT. The best power conversion efficiency of 0.57% under
    simulated solar irradiation (95 mW cm22) was achieved on a cell
    annealed at 120 uC for 10 min. Introduction of SWCNTs into the
    composite not only enhanced the short circuit current density,
    JSC, because of faster electron transport via the network of
    SWCNTs, but also improved the fill factor due to the morphology
    change. The net effect was improved power conversion
    efficiency as compared to cells without SWCNTs. Further
    optimization is necessary to further improve the performance.
    These results clearly indicate that the polymer : C60-SWCNT
    composite is an excellent candidate for the fabrication of low cost
    polymer photovoltaic cells, because C60 is significantly less
    expensive than PCBM, and only a small amount of the more
    expensive SWCNT is needed in the photoactive composite.

    It's clearly at a very early stage of research/development, but polymer photovoltaic cells have such enormous potential that it's an extremely valuable direction to pursue.
  • by dan_barrett (259964) on Friday July 20, 2007 @12:08AM (#19923073)
    While this sounds cool, this seems to be yet another technology that we'll eventually be able to print with our inexpensive inkjet printers.

    hopefully they'll release the "nanotube buckyball solar panel" cartridge to fit in the same printer as the OLED display cartridge... etc.

    Can't wait to read some word documents written using solar panel nanotube ink, too.
  • Go Highlanders! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ynososiduts (1064782)
    Woo! For some reason when developments like this come out of a school you attend, a wave of pride just comes over you. They actually have an impressive solar array on top of the Student Center with a little terminal that reads out the power production. It's pretty nifty. I believe it's the biggest array in New Jersey. I'm glad they are making progress. Now all they need to do is develop a way for girls to attend the school.
  • In addition to painting these on...I would bet you'd also need to wire it into your house.
    Upconvert the voltage. Change to AC. Find some way to store it or pipe it back into the grid.
    All non-trivial stuff.
    • by Alioth (221270)
      Non-trivial? It's extremely trivial - inverters to convert low voltage DC to higher voltage AC have existed for decades. Grid tie inverters have been around for years also (these allow you to put power back onto the grid). There's probably no need to store the energy in your house - during the day, when demand is highest, just sell to the grid, and at night (when your demand is reasonably low) buy back off the grid.
  • Why is it that every SlashDot article having to do with technology includes the phrase "Nano-Tube", "Quantum", or "Bucky-Ball"?

    Has anyone else noticed this?
  • Buckyballs trap electrons, although they can't make electrons flow. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons. Nanotubes, behaving like copper wires, will then be able to make the electrons or current flow.

    My GOD!...it's to simple!...Why didn't I think of that!

    Seriously, can somebody point me to someting a little more detailed? That article sounds a little "vapor-ish". On the other hand, if such a thing will be coming to market, I'd like to know where I could buy it.
  • Who wrote that press release? A media undergrad? Look at this wonderful statement:

    "Expensive, large-scale infrastructures such as wind mills or dams are necessary to drive renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power plants."

    Gee, really? I always thought we made windmills for hydroelectric power. Or how about this:

    "When sunlight falls on an organic solar cell, the energy generates positive and negative charges. If the charges can be separated and sent to different electrodes, then a current
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Friday July 20, 2007 @10:42AM (#19926825)
    ...you have { efficient, small, affordable } pick 2. It is easy to make a breakthrough in one of them if you ignore the other two. It is somewhat harder to make a breakthrough in 2 while ignoring one, and any article that doesn't mention all 3 when talking about a breakthrough is almost certainly hype.

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