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Nanotech Solar Energy Paint Developed

Prashant Kamat (Univ. of Notre Dame)

Prashant Kamat (Univ. of Notre Dame)

Researchers at University of Notre Dame in Indiana have created an inexpensive paste made with semiconducting nanoparticles to produce a spreadable substance that can generate energy. The work of chemistry professor Prashant Kamat and colleagues is described in the 6 December issue of the journal ACS Nano (paid subscription required).

Kamat’s team based the compound on nanoscale semiconductor particles (one nanometer equals one billionth of a meter) called quantum dots, made from titanium dioxide. The basic nanoparticles were then coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide, and mixed in a water-alcohol suspension to create a paste.

The team applied the paste to a conducting glass surface and submitted it to a heat treatment equivalent to 200 degrees C. When exposed to light, the painted surface generated electric power. However, the highest light-to-energy conversion achieved was about 1 percent, well below the 10 to 15 percent efficiency of conventional solar cells.

Kamat and colleagues plan to further develop the solar paint, named Sun-Believable, not only to increase its conversion efficiency but also to improve the stability of the new material. “[T]his paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities,” says Kamat. “If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

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