Thanks to advances in modern technology, it may soon be possible to make the exterior of your home generate its own electricity with a little more than a simple coat of special photovoltaic paint.
At the University of Notre Dame, a profound and exciting leap in the direction of such a possibility was made when researchers, funded by the United States Department of Energy’s Office of Basic Energy Sciences, concocted a low cost paint that takes advantage of nanoparticle semiconductors in order to produce solar energy.
According to Dr. Prashant Kamat, John A. Zahm Professor of Science in Chemistry and Biochemistry of Notre Dame’s Center for Nano Science and Technology investigator and the solar paint project’s lead researcher, “We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology. By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment.”
In order to achieve this amazing and promising effect, the research team used nano-sized titanium dioxide particles and coated them with one or the other of cadmium selenide or cadmium sulfide. Afterwards, the researchers then incorporated the coated particles into combination of alcohol and water in order to form a spreadable medium. This paste was able to generate energy when it was applied to a transparent conducting medium and exposed to light.
Dr. Kamat says, “The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we’ve reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells. But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”
He then went on to add that, “That’s why we’ve christened the new paint, Sun-Believable.” The team is also considering what they can do to increase the new substance’s stability.
As one of the foremost nanotech centers in the world, it is the Notre Dame Center for Nano Science and Technology’s mission to research and take advantage of the inherent properties of objects and devices and their effects on living structures on a nano scale.