By Lin Smith
Accessible and Affordable Solar Energy
October 13, 2013—Energy powered by solar cells, which are photovoltaics “generating electrical power by converting solar radiation into direct current electricity using semiconductors, started creating energy for satellites’ electrical systems over 50 years ago, in 1958. New, less expensive and more efficient forms of solar energy are being offered today to the consumer almost daily–the solar revolution of the 21st century. Also, taking place today, is a movement to make renewables accessible and affordable to off-the-grid communities of the world. The newest innovations in renewables could create a higher standard of living, reduce diseases, and malnutrition, as in Africa, where solar pump systems draw water from underground sources or streams to water gardens. (See Solar in Africa: Putting an End to Malnutrition, One Village at A time.).
One of the newest innovations in solar is spray-on solar, which not only collects light but also collects infrared waves. Spray-on solar is in the experiment stage at the University of Alberta, where researchers are spraying nanoparticles on solar cells and testing their efficiency. The nano-scale solar technology is “the world of individual atoms or molecules which focuses on integration of nano-scale devices and materials, constructing them into a program for a specific application,” aligning the atoms in rows 30 to 40 across to create a solar spray-on material. The solar nanoparticles absorb light and conduct electricity from the minerals, zinc and phosphorus, both plentiful materials.
According to Maria Trimarchi, “How Stuff Works,”the researchers at the University of Alberta, Canada, are experimenting with spray-on solar that will be “lighter, stronger, cleaner and generally less expensive” than most solar methods in production today. Jullian M.Buriak, Senior Research Officer at the University of Alberta, said in a recent interview, “Solar cells are currently made from sand in a process that involves heating the materials repeatedly to very high temperatures-around 1000C. As a result it takes 3 to 6 years for the resulting solar cell to generate the amount of power used to manufacture the solar cells in the first place.”
Producing Inexpensive Solar Cells
Buriak states that the solar nanoparticles are “made in a standard, bubbling pot glassware set up in a lab using elements that are very abundant-zinc and phosphorus.” This new method would spray solar panels as they move down a conveyor belt, using a hydrogen film plus an anti-reflective material. The researchers are working to develop inexpensive solar in the form of roll-to-roll printing (like a newspaper), or a spray-on coating using the nanoparticle based “inks” made from the zinc phosphide, dissolving these minerals to form the ink. Buriak uses a spray coater that you can buy from an automobile touch-up shop for the spray-on ink. Researchers are also working to improve efficiency of the cells, plus ways to produce them on a larger scale. Their next step is to scale up manufacturing of the solar ink, producing a product that is less expensive because the process used to make the solar cells is very low-energy. CBCNews Canada, reported, “Silicon-free solar cells could be produced in mass production which are light and flexible enough to roll up and use as window blinds.”
There is hope for reversing the CO2 level in our atmosphere with innovative people like Jullian Buriak, who have the will to make solar inexpensive, efficient, and available to all by harnessing the free energy from our Sun!
- New nanoparticles make solar cells cheaper to manufacture (eurekalert.org)
- Cheap, spray-on solar cells developed by Canadian researchers (nextbigfuture.com)
- Spray-On Solar Cells – New, Inexpensive Nanoparticles Lower Solar Cell Manufacturing Costs (cleantechnica.com)
- New nanoparticles make solar cells cheaper to manufacture (nanowerk.com)
- Solar power breakthrough: Printable or spray-on solar panels (beaconnews.ca)
- Spray-On Solar Cells? New Nanoparticles Make Solar Cells Cheaper to Manufacture (globalclarity.wordpress.com)
- Scientist to ‘Paint’ Solar Cells With Nanoparticle-Based ‘Inks’ (dailyfusion.net)