Researchers develop a path to liquid solar cells that can be printed onto surfaces
Scientists at USC have developed a potential pathway to cheap, stable solar cells made from nanocrystals so small they can exist as a liquid ink and be painted or printed onto clear surfaces. The solar nanocrystals are about four nanometers in size -- meaning you could fit more than 250,000,000,000 on the head of a pin -- and float them in a liquid solution, so "like you print a newspaper, you can print solar cells," said Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Brutchey and USC postdoctoral researcher David H. Webber developed a new surface coating for the nanocrystals, which are made of the semiconductor cadmium selenide. Their research is featured as a "hot article" this month in the international journal for inorganic chemistry Dalton Transactions.
Liquid nanocrystal solar cells are cheaper to fabricate than available single-crystal silicon wafer solar cells but are not nearly as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity. Brutchey and Webber solved one of the key problems of liquid solar cells: how to create a stable liquid that also conducts electricity.
In the past, organic ligand molecules were attached to the nanocrystals to keep them stable and to prevent them from sticking together. These molecules also insulated the crystals, making the whole thing terrible at conducting electricity.
"That has been a real challenge in this field," Brutchey said.
Brutchey and Webber discovered a synthetic ligand that not only works well at stabilizing nanocrystals, but actually builds tiny bridges connecting the nanocrystals to help transmit current.
With a relatively low-temperature process, the researchers' method also allows for the possibility that solar cells can be printed onto plastic instead of glass without any issues with melting -- resulting in a flexible solar panel that can be shaped to fit anywhere.
As they continue their research, Brutchey said he plans to work on nanocrystals built from materials other than cadmium, which is restricted in commercial applications due to toxicity.
"While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies," Brutchey said.
- Liquid solar cells that can be printed onto surfacesfrom Science BlogWed, 25 Apr 2012, 16:00:19 EDT
- Liquid solar cells can be printed onto surfacesfrom Science DailyWed, 25 Apr 2012, 15:30:44 EDT
- Researchers Develop A Path To Liquid Solar Cells That Can Be Printed Onto Surfacesfrom Newswise - ScinewsWed, 25 Apr 2012, 15:30:30 EDT
- Researchers develop a path to liquid solar cells that can be printed onto surfacesfrom PhysorgWed, 25 Apr 2012, 13:30:47 EDT
Latest Science NewsletterGet the latest and most popular science news articles of the week in your Inbox! It's free!
Check out our next project, Biology.Net
From other science news sites
Popular science news articles
- Tiny drops of early universe 'perfect' fluid
- Fossil specimen reveals a new species of ancient river dolphin to Smithsonian scientists
- Evidence of ancient life discovered in mantle rocks deep below the seafloor
- Scientists describe new clam species from depths off Canada's Atlantic coast
- Sex-specific biomarkers are needed to learn why heart attacks kill more women than men
- Massive study reports challenges in reproducing published psychology findings
- Mystery of polar bear Knut's disease finally solved
- Future climate models greatly affected by fungi and bacteria
- Scientists identify possible key in virus, cancer research
- Women more likely than men to initiate divorces, but not non-marital breakups