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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 @08:51PM (#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.
  • by QuantumG (50515) <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @08:55PM (#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 GreyPoopon (411036) <gpoopon&gmail,com> on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:13PM (#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?
  • by Geoffrey.landis (926948) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:18PM (#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.
  • by jlarocco (851450) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:18PM (#19922385) Homepage

    ... Seriously, is there anything they CAN'T do?

    Make their way into an actual product people can buy?

  • Re:Enough energy? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @09:38PM (#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.
  • Specs? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday July 19, 2007 @10:39PM (#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 Anonymous Coward on Thursday July 19, 2007 @11:15PM (#19923117)
    The dismal science came up with Jeavon's paradox in the 19th century as much the same observation: improve the efficiency and the demand increases more.
  • by mechsoph (716782) on Friday July 20, 2007 @12:13AM (#19923445)
    A roof and back yard are only so big.
  • by arivanov (12034) on Friday July 20, 2007 @01:10AM (#19923737) Homepage
    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 concept to actually do the engineering work and deliver a product. That takes 1-3 years on average and this is a timeline VCs are happy to cope with.
  • by zCyl (14362) on Friday July 20, 2007 @01:18AM (#19923761)
    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.
  • Re:Very promising. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Friday July 20, 2007 @01:22AM (#19923777)

    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 stor (146442) on Friday July 20, 2007 @04:06AM (#19924421)
    no swimming pool when the A/C is on.

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

    -Stor
  • by jambox (1015589) on Friday July 20, 2007 @05:59AM (#19924929)
    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 even making them at all. Now they only cost a few dollars.

    The basic idea is that once you have done the research so the design and the process are set up, you just churn out the same thing again and again. Contrast this to, say, a car, where there are thousands of parts, of all sizes, made out of all sorts of materials then assembled either by hand or by robot.

    I call for government subsidies! Discuss.
  • Re:Interesting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Bob-taro (996889) on Friday July 20, 2007 @08:57AM (#19926295)

    ...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 all year round to cover the hottest months.
  • by BlueParrot (965239) on Friday July 20, 2007 @09:42AM (#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.

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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