New Technique Offers Easy, Inexpensive Spray-On Solar Power

December 8, 2014 By Karen Henry

sprayon solar Energy ManageResearchers with the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Toronto and IBM Canada’s Research and Development Centre have invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using minuscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs). The invention is being touted as a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and inexpensive to manufacture.

Solar-sensitive CQDs printed onto a flexible film could be used to coat surfaces ranging from patio furniture to an airplane wing. A surface the size of a car roof wrapped with CQD-coated film would produce enough energy to power three 100-W light bulbs or 24 compact fluorescents.

Until now, it was only possible to incorporate light-sensitive CQDs onto surfaces through batch processing. This new technique, called sprayLD, blasts a liquid containing CQDs directly onto flexible surfaces, similar to the process of printing a newspaper by applying ink onto a roll of paper. This roll-to-roll coating method makes incorporating solar cells into existing manufacturing processes much simpler. The sprayLD method can be used on flexible materials without any major loss in solar-cell efficiency, the researchers reported in two recently published papers.

The sprayLD device (pictured) was built with parts that are readily available in hardware and art supply stores.

A team of researchers at the University of Sheffield in the United Kingdom was the first to fabricate perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process.

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