Imagine a world where you never have to remember to charge your cellphone. Imagine living in a home that is powered by a reliable, consistent, affordable, alternative energy source.
Scientist Jillian Buriak and her team of researchers from the University of Alberta have been working on an experiment to produce solar cells from elements found inside the Earth’s crust. The experiment combined phosphorus and zinc and found that they absorbed light and produced energy. With Buriak’s hypothesis coming to life, the promising illusion of spray-on solar cell technology is quickly turning into reality.
What Are Spray-On Solar Cells and How Are They Made?
Spray-on solar cells are made from nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity. The nanoparticles come from two common elements: phosphorus and zinc. The elements are combined and processed into a liquid which can be sprayed onto solar cells. The particles can also be dissolved to form an ink to be used in spray-coating or roll-to-roll printing. The ink is processed into thin films that are responsive to light.
What are the Benefits of Spray-On Technology?
This new technology makes manufacturing more affordable because the product is made with a plastic compound instead of the expensive silicone found in traditional solar blue paneling. The spray-on solar cells are also easier to install, making costly solar panel installation fees a thing of the past.
With their easy application and cost efficient manufacturing process, the nanoparticle-based inks could have widespread use, and they could facilitate the introduction of solar cells to a variety of surfaces (such as, automobiles, computers, apparel, and other uneven surfaces). Researchers have already applied for a provisional patent and have secured the necessary funding to start production.
Buriak explains why this new technology is important, “half the world already lives off the grid, and with demand for electrical power expected to double by the year 2050, it is important that renewable energy sources like solar power are made more affordable, by lowering the costs of manufacturing.” The spray-on solar cell technology presents a low-cost, mass manufacturing solution, which makes the technology accessible to those living in developing countries.
Not only is this spray-on solar cell technology cost-effective, but it will also improve quality of life the world over. That’s what we call a win-win!
Now, if we could only create a cell phone that self-charges…