This beats even sci-fi, is a giant leap in the renewable energy research field, and also an important step towards making solar power more accessible to remote corners of the globe.
Researchers at the University of Alberta discovered that several, abundant materials on the earth’s crust can be used to make inexpensive and easily manufactured nanoparticle-based solar cells.
With this discovery, the accessibility to solar power and its popularity will increase and parts of the world that are off the traditional electricity grid or face high power costs such as the Canadian North can adopt solar power, stated Professor Jillian Buriak, senior research officer of the National Institute for Nanotechnology based on the U of A campus.
Professor Buriak and her team have designed nanoparticles from two common elements, phosphorus, and zinc that can absorb light and conduct electricity. Both the elements are abundantly available on earth’s surface and free from manufacturing restrictions imposed on lead-based nanoparticles
“With demand for electrical power expected to double by the year 2050, it is important that renewable energy sources like solar power are made more affordable by lowering the costs of manufacturing,” stated Professor Buriak.
This research would bring in a new, cheaper method of manufacturing solar cells using roll-to-roll printing or spray-coating.
Professor Buriak added that these nano solar cells are so small that they could be used to paint or print solar cells or precise compositions. Her team is also developing a synthetic method of making zinc phosphide nanoparticles. The team also demonstrated how these particles can be liquefied to form an ink which can be made into thin films that are responsive to light.
The team is also testing the efficiency of this spray on solar cells by spray-coating them onto large solar cells. The researchers have also secured funding to enable the next step to scale up manufacture.