Paint-On Solar Cells | Chemical & Engineering News
Volume 89 Issue 51 | p. 37 | Concentrates
Issue Date: December 19, 2011

Paint-On Solar Cells

Photovoltaic paints coated on electrodes would be cheap and easy to make
Department: Science & Technology
News Channels: Materials SCENE, Environmental SCENE
Keywords: solar energy, solar cells, solar paint, photovoltaics, cadmium selenide, quantum dots
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Photovoltaic paint containing TiO2 nanoparticles coated with CdS (yellow) or CdSe (dark brown) could turn any conducting surface into a solar cell. The most efficient paint is a mixture of the two particles (beige).
Credit: ACS Nano
Paints consisting of titanium dioxide nanoparticles coated with either cadmium sulfide (yellow) or cadmium selenide (dark brown) can be used to make inexpensive solar cells. The most efficient paint is a mixture of the two (beige). Coating with a mixture of CdS and CdSe results in a paint that is more efficient than paint coated with only one cadmium compound.
 
Photovoltaic paint containing TiO2 nanoparticles coated with CdS (yellow) or CdSe (dark brown) could turn any conducting surface into a solar cell. The most efficient paint is a mixture of the two particles (beige).
Credit: ACS Nano

To fabricate solar cells, technicians may someday trade their clean-room garb for a paint smock. Researchers led by Prashant V. Kamat of the University of Notre Dame have developed “solar paints” made of a paste containing semiconducting nanoparticles (ACS Nano, DOI: 10.1021/nn204381g). The paints could lead to cheaper and easier-to-produce solar cells. Silicon-based solar cells have a high price tag because of the specialized protocols and equipment needed to make them, Kamat says. To simplify the design and lower those costs, Kamat and his colleagues wanted to develop silicon-free cells based on quantum dot nanomaterials that someone could simply paint onto any conductive surface. The team’s solar paints contain a titanium dioxide nanoparticle core coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. When a photon with the right energy hits the cadmium compounds, an electron escapes and TiO2 absorbs it. The researchers found that the most efficient of these first-generation paints—with a light-to-electricity conversion efficiency of 1%—was a mixture of both CdS- and CdSe-coated nanoparticles; commercial silicon solar cells have efficiencies between 10 and 15%. Kamat and his team next plan to study paint stability, as well as work to increase the efficiency.

 
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