Spray-on Solar Panels – Science Nation

MILES O’BRIEN: Harnessing the power of the sun, its a
bright idea with enormous potential, but how do we get there? BRIAN KORGEL: There’s plenty of power in the sun to
meet the energy needs of the world. We haven’t figured out how to get the ratio right of
cost and efficiencies. Put it in there and spray. MILES O’BRIEN: This spray paint could be part of
the future of solar power. With support from the National Science Foundation,
chemical engineer Brian Korgel and his team at the University of Texas are developing spray on solar
cells. They’re being tested as alternatives to the sometimes bulky, fragile devices now used to capture
the suns rays. BRIAN KORGEL: These are nanocrystals suspended in a
solvent and you take this material and you can deposit it as you would an ink. These are actual devices,
test devices made of the solar ink and deposited on plastic. So these are devices like our
sandwiches where you have the metal contact on the bottom and metal contact on the top to extract
the charge out and the middle part absorbs the light. MILES O’BRIEN: The goal is to use these nanoparticles
to coat large layered solar collectors that are cheap and flexible, even printing them in a way
newspapers are. VAHID AKHAVAN: You want to produce something that’s
very user-friendly. And the final product would look something like, ideally, it would look something like
todays shingle MILES O’BRIEN: But there are many challenges before
youll be able to buy these nanoparticles solar shingles to power your house. BRIAN KORGEL: They work but we need to get the
efficiency better. We’d have made devices that have an efficiency of 3%. And to be commercial, you
really need to be at about 10%. VAHID AKHAVAN: You turn on the light and then place
the devices in the beam of the light and make a measurement of the current–the efficiency of the
last device that we test is a little over 1% efficient MILES O’BRIEN: Korgel says this sustainable energy
research resonates with just about everyone. BRIAN KORGEL: When they hear that somebody has come
up with a way to make a solar cell by spray painting it, they get really excited. MILES O’BRIEN: In this lab there are plenty of new
ideas under the sun. For Science Nation, I’m Miles O’Brien.

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