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SCI/TECH: Sprayable Infrared-Detecting Plastics Show Promise as Energy Source

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posted on Jan, 11 2005 @ 02:51 PM
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Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented an infrared-detecting material made with nanoparticles that may allow solar energy collectors 5 times greater efficiency. Their size allows them to be spray-painted on surfaces and also gives them important applications in medicine and communications.
 



www.sciencedaily.com
Existing technology has given us solution-processible, light-sensitive materials that have made large, low-cost solar cells, displays, and sensors possible, but these materials have so far only worked in the visible light spectrum, says Sargent. "These same functions are needed in the infrared for many imaging applications in the medical field and for fibre optic communications," he says.

The discovery may also help in the quest for renewable energy sources. Flexible, roller-processed solar cells have the potential to harness the sun's power, but efficiency, flexibility and cost are going to determine how that potential becomes practice, says Josh Wolfe, managing partner and nanotechnology venture capital investor at Lux Capital in Manhattan. Wolfe, who was not part of the research team, says the findings in the paper are significant: "These flexible photovoltaics could harness half of the sun's spectrum not previously accessed."

Professor Peter Peumans of Stanford University, who has reviewed the U of T team's research, also acknowledges the groundbreaking nature of the work. "Our calculations show that, with further improvements in efficiency, combining infrared and visible photovoltaics could allow up to 30 per cent of the sun's radiant energy to be harnessed, compared to six per cent in today's best plastic solar cells."



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With rapidly decreasing fossil fuel reserves, there is becoming a need for new sources of renewable energy. In current commercial photovoltaic systems, efficiency is limited to 6%, and to be completely sustained on solar energy, a country the size of the Unites States would need 0.6% of its land devoted to solar energy collection and processing.

However, with an efficiency of 30% as projected with continued research into the infrared photovoltaic cells, only 0.12% of land would need to be used. If these sprays were used on the solar cells mounted on many homes and buildings, the need for land would be further reduced.

It is unlikely that these cells will replace fossil fuels in the short-term, but they may be able to relieve the current strain put on our oil reserves until a more efficient photovoltaic cell can render fossil fuels obsolete. Hopefully this new breakthrough will get people to start taking solar energy more seriously as a very real and very clean alternative to our current source of energy.

[edit on 11-1-2005 by zhangmaster]

[edit on 11-1-2005 by zhangmaster]




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