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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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  • by Bayoudegradeable (1003768) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:11PM (#19922333)
    This reminds me of.... 2002.... http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2002/0 3/28_solar.html [berkeley.edu]same idea, 2002
  • Re:Sweet (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:18PM (#19922387) Journal
    Hmm, I wonder if I can paint my car with this and tell big oil to !$#@ off?

    Nope. Not enough power.

    But maybe if you paved a couple acres and painted THAT you could collect enough power to charge your car.
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:27PM (#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.

  • by catprog (849688) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:49PM (#19922613) Homepage
    If you have a large enough area then efficiency doesn't matter only cost per watt.
  • by philpalm (952191) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:24PM (#19922829)
    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.
  • Re:Very promising. (Score:4, Informative)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:30PM (#19922871)
    unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficency
  • by Morgaine (4316) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:55PM (#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.
  • Charging a car (Score:5, Informative)

    by mdsolar (1045926) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:02PM (#19923041) Homepage Journal
    Most single storey houses have enough roof space to allow current silicon panels to both power the house (under net metering) and charge a plug-in hybrid. It does not take acres. If you have a taller house, you might need some yard space since you've got more floor per unit roof to power. Polymer panels may hit 10% efficiency befor to long. The current record is 6.5%http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19044/ [technologyreview.com], so there is not all that far to go to catch up with 16-20% efficient silicon.
    --
    Sprout silicon leaves: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]
  • by Maxo-Texas (864189) on Friday July 20, 2007 @12:55AM (#19923645)
    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.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Informative)

    by arivanov (12034) on Friday July 20, 2007 @01:02AM (#19923691) Homepage
    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).
  • 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. ... It is not a matter of suffering or 'making do', but just finding you don't need as much as you thought you did.

    No, it IS a matter of "making do". Do you think people in developing countries really want to live this way? Really, this whole notion that we can significantly cut power consumption in the United States just by making a few "lifestyle changes" is fucking ridiculous.

    It's a matter of being aware of a wider variety of options and being aware of where things come from. I don't eat a lot of meat, not because there's a shortage, but because I have had to handle the whole process end to end. I have a lot more respect for the animals it comes from and no desire to waste it. I don't have any shortage of electricity or water right now, but, because of where I have been, I am aware of where it comes from when I flip a switch or turn a tap. I also know I have better options for entertainment than wasting them. My washer is set up to cycle rinse water from one load into the next load's wash water. It doesn't save me much money, but it does not cost me anything either. People do not appreciate what they have.

    THE LIGHTS ARE NOT A MAJOR SOURCE OF POWER CONSUMPTION IN YOUR HOUSE. Read that last sentence again slowly. Whether you leave your lights on 24/7 or not will have little effect on your power bill. The BIG uses of electricity involve heating and cooling. In order, these tend to be the big uses: Refrigerator: No refrigerated food for you!

    I have to admit, my refrigerator was running when I made that post, though I have lived without it, I do prefer it. There are quite a few ways to do with less or make it more efficient.

    Air Conditioner: You boil in the summer! Yay!

    Don't have it, and this is a warm climate. Efficient construction, intelligent landscaping (e.g. deciduous trees on southern exposure), drapes, reduces much of the need; people don't bother anymore depending on air conditioning instead. It's amazing what minor, intelligent changes can do without 'suffering'. Bottom line: people don't care.

    Electric heating: No heat for you! Hope you don't freeze to death in the winter.

    Again, people have choices to reduce consumption. When the house gets cold, I put on a sweater. That was just the way it was done where I grew up (in the North). In the house I grew up in, we also had a large window on a southern exposure that directed sunlight onto a stone fireplace. The stonework heated all day and radiated back all night. It cut heating costs tremendously without a complex 'passive solar system'. Sure, I use heat, but am much more frugal with it than most people, not from some conscious need to pinch pennies (though it does help), but just out of inborn habit. Many people cool their homes in the summer to temperatures they cannot stand in the winter and heat to temperatures in the winter they complain about in the summer--- how does that make sense?

    Electric stove: No cooking for you! Hope you can subsist wholly on raw foods.

    Not wholly certainly, but certainly a good bit during the warm seasons, and as much as I can, food from local markets, not trucked half way across the continent. Do you even know where your local farmers' market is? During the cold months, I usually get at least several uses out of my heat energy, as I use a wood stove for area heating, cook on it, boil water, and use the potash for various things. If the wood comes from local culls and deadfall, it is CO2 neutral. Perfect, no. Better, yes.

    Microwave: See above. Computers and other appliances: No /. for you!

    Sure, on the other hand, I don't have a qua

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