Solar Power on the cheap

solar-paint-02

Solar Power is experiencing fantastic growth in the UK, helped in no small part by Feed In Tarriffs which help to reduce the major barrier to it’s development: high cost of manufacture, installation and maintenance. If these costs could be reduced we would see further expansion of solar power and on a larger scale. Fortunately, researchers at Buffalo University (New York) are developing a new generation of photovoltaic cells that produce more power and cost less to manufacture than what’s available today.

The team are developing a plasmonic-enhanced organic photovoltaic material that they say is less expensive and — because they are made (or processed) in liquid form — can be applied to a greater variety of surfaces than current solar power technology.

“Compared with their inorganic counterparts, organic photovoltaics can be fabricated over large areas on rigid or flexible substrates potentially becoming as inexpensive as paint,” researcher Qiaoqiang Gan said.

The team firmly believe that not only could the organic photovoltaic cells be produced as cheaply as paint but that it could one day be applied to walls as easily. Imagine that, all our painted walls producing electricity!

These organic photovoltaic cells are not without there drawbacks however. Currently they need to be thin because of poor conductive properties and because of this it limits their optical absorption and leads to insufficient power conversion efficiency. Their power conversion efficiency needs to be 10 percent or more to compete in the market, Gan said.

To achieve this, the team are incorporating metal nanoparticles and/or patterned plasmonic nanostructures into the organic cells. Plasmons are electromagnetic waves and free electrons that can be used to oscillate back and forth across the interface of metals and semiconductors.

Qiaoqiang Gan says they are experiencing breakthroughs with the technology and are making great progress. He argues that here should be a renewed focus on how nanomaterials and plasmonic strategies can create more efficient and affordable thin-film organic solar cells.

University at Buffalo (2013, May 13). Solar panels as inexpensive as paint?. ScienceDaily. Retrieved May 14, 2013, from

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