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Solar Cells Made From a Spreadable Nanoparticle Paste

timothy posted more than 2 years ago | from the soylent-goo dept.

Science 66

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at Notre Dame have created a nanoparticle paste, which acts as the main ingredient in solar cells that are very easy to construct. In a short video clip, they can be seen assembling a functional solar cell with little more than a heat gun, tape, and some binder clips. The paste is made from a mix of t-butanol, water, and a mix of cadmium selenide with cadmium sulfide nanoparticles. So far, the experimental devices are not nearly as efficient as standard solar cells, but they were just developed. If the materials were slightly less toxic, it might even be a project that kids could do at home."

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66 comments

How slightly are we talking about here? (2)

Lashat (1041424) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465164)

"If the materials were slightly less toxic, it might even be a project that kids could do at home."

It better be like Play-doh.

Re:How slightly are we talking about here? (4, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465246)

Considering it's got cadmium selenide, the current version is pretty toxic [pdf] [testbourne.com] . I assume the blurb is just trying to find a catchy way of saying that the actual preparation process is not difficult.

Re:How slightly are we talking about here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465300)

Considering it's got cadmium selenide, the current version is pretty toxic [pdf] [testbourne.com] . I assume the blurb is just trying to find a catchy way of saying that the actual preparation process is not difficult.

Most of the time they try to be cute/funny/catchy/endearing/witty, it fails and they end up sounding awkward and corny. They'd be better off not trying.

China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium Now (4, Funny)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465392)

This is why the west will never catch up with China. They are so forward thinking and innovative they have had their kids playing with Cadmium, Lead, [vancouversun.com] and other heavy metals for years now. How can we possibly compete?

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (3, Informative)

Trepidity (597) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465404)

If they get to play with mercury, I'd consider moving, because mercury is awesome.

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (2)

Ethanol-fueled (1125189) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465734)

"...beakers, Florence flasks, little petri dishes full of mercury - blobs of mercury. I used to play with it all the time ... One of the things I used to like to do was pour the mercury on the floor and hit it with a hammer, so it squirted all over the place. I lived in mercury."

-- Frank Zappa, recalling his childhood

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

NEDHead (1651195) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466064)

Are You Insane!!

No, seriously, are you insane?

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472732)

Considering he was quoting Frank Zappa, I'd say no. As to Mr. Zappa, I'd say that explains quite a bit, although the results were certainly awesome.

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (4, Funny)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465768)

Heck, a few decades ago kids were still playing with the mercury from broken thermometers here. Now the nanny state liberals tell us oooooooo mercury is bad for you. Bah! It never affected me. Now, why is a raven like a writing desk?

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

Forty Two Tenfold (1134125) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465932)

Now, why is a raven like a writing desk?

I haven't the slightest idea, but my hat off to you, sir.

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38469244)

Now, why is a raven like a writing desk?

Both produce a few notes, but they're very flat.

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38469324)

Also, it is nevar put with the wrong end in front.

(the spelling is intentional)

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

youn (1516637) | more than 2 years ago | (#38468330)

If they get to play with mercury, I'd consider moving, because mercury is awesome.

Heck, have them play with venus or mars instead :)... euh, what do you mean, not that mercury? you mean nasa's mercury? no? darn, the type of cars? still no? hum, mercury, mercury, I know what it means, I swear :p... hang on, I'll get back to you :)

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

slick7 (1703596) | more than 2 years ago | (#38472400)

This is why the west will never catch up with China. They are so forward thinking and innovative they have had their kids playing with Cadmium, Lead, [vancouversun.com] and other heavy metals for years now. How can we possibly compete?

Yes yes, but the real question is, if it's spreadable, will it stick to the roof of your mouth?

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473688)

Yes yes, but ask yourself this: What do you get when you cross a rooster with peanut butter?

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | more than 2 years ago | (#38475104)

thai food

Re:China Will Win: Kids There Play With Cadmium No (1)

theshowmecanuck (703852) | more than 2 years ago | (#38475210)

Close ... what else are Thais famous for... think about it... tourists who like the Thai closets better than their American closets. Now you should be able to figure out the riddle... even though it has nothing to do with Thailand.

Re:How slightly are we talking about here? (1)

Ukab the Great (87152) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465732)

Given its toxicity, I assume the blurb is to say "the promise of a combined alternative energy source and spermicide is just around the corner."

Re:How slightly are we talking about here? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38470692)

Who cares? It tastes great when spread on hot toast!

Very easy [Re:How slightly are we talking abou...] (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465340)

"If the materials were slightly less toxic, it might even be a project that kids could do at home."

It's easy to make cad sulfide/copper sulfide solar cells at home-- it takes little more work than dipping a penny in a cad sulfide plating solution. Making not-very-efficient solar cells at home is really nothing new. As long as you don't drink the plating solution, it's not terribly dangerous.

(main reason cadmium sulfide/copper sulfide solar cells never really caught on is lifetime-- they degrade quickly if there's any humidity at all. I don't think I've heard of anybody making them since about 1980.)

Re:Very easy [Re:How slightly are we talking abou. (2)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465496)

But why risk it? Just use copper oxide [rimstar.org] , it's far safer (except for maybe the heating part). Also, they mention about a 1% efficiency, which is what you'll get with this.

Re:Very easy [Re:How slightly are we talking abou. (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465888)

I am pretty sure that for now, they are getting 1% with what they have, but are expecting a much better result with more development. Meaning that it will outperform copper oxide further down the track.

Re:Very easy [Re:How slightly are we talking abou. (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 2 years ago | (#38466842)

But why risk it? Just use copper oxide [rimstar.org] , it's far safer (except for maybe the heating part).

Well, except the "solar cell" in the site you link isn't really a solar cell, it's a photoelectrochemical cell. They're using the cuprous oxide as the p-type semiconductor, but they don't have a n-type semiconductor, they're using an electrolyte. To make a solar cell, they'd need to put a n-type semiconductor on top, to make a p-n junction ...which would typically be CdO.

Re:Very easy [Re:How slightly are we talking abou. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38477454)

To make a solar cell, they'd need to put a n-type semiconductor on top, to make a p-n junction ...which would typically be CdO.

Not [wikipedia.org] necessarily [sjbyrnes.com] .

Re:How slightly are we talking about here? (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 2 years ago | (#38469648)

We're talking in the "If we had bacon, we could have bacon and eggs, if we had eggs" sense.

Delicious. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465182)

Mmmm. Spreadable nanoparticle paste... Delicious.

Huge breakthrough! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465184)

We can now make ineffective solar cells from horrendously toxic materials, this is a step up from our previous efforts to produce ineffective solar cells using non-toxic and mildy toxic materials.

Similar to the dye sensitized solar cell kit (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465226)

I build this kit as a solar cell demo for my school a few weeks ago. The article has a very different chemistry, but the assembly is almost identical.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17SsOKEN5dE

Re:Similar to the dye sensitized solar cell kit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38469422)

Hey the dye sensitized cells are only up to 13 times more efficient than the nanoparticle ones, and (unlike the nanoparticle cells) are already competitive.

Why are you showing us something useful instead of something new?

Could be better (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465256)

Solar paint is fine, but there's a whole lot of energy that could be gathered with solar pavement. Just think of all those blacktop parking lots, if those had a 1% solar energy conversion you could probably make mini-malls power grid neutral.

Re:Could be better (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465942)

While not quite using paint or parking lots, the Germans embraced Solar power ten years ago [wired.com] and have certainly not looked back.

Re:Could be better (1)

emilper (826945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38469976)

yes, have embraced solar power, are spending tens of billions Euro every year, and have under 5% of their consumption supplied from renewables ...

Re:Could be better (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38470330)

Let's not be disingenuous, sounds like a pretty good deal pro-rated long term. Not only that, but isn't 5% of their energy consumption already tens of billions of Euro a year?

Re:Could be better (1)

emilper (826945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38470404)

a large part of those billions are just the subsidies, while the tax wedge in Germany is above 60% ... meaning out of what an employers spends with an employee, more than 60% goes to taxes ; yes, sounds like a pretty good deal, but only if you're selling solar power equipment.

Re:Could be better (2)

IonOtter (629215) | more than 2 years ago | (#38473162)

Ahhh, yes, the old 60% scare.

Funny, they also have full, all-inclusive healthcare, generous retirement packages, pensions from their employer and the state, a minimum of 30 days paid vacation and a 38-hour work week. Oh, and because of all those subsidies, they industrial sector is quite safe from the downturn and making lots of money, their banks didn't crash and their economy only took a ding because everyone ELSE crashed and burned.

Yeah, that 60% is sooooo painful.

I'm sure all the German tourists in Asia, Africa, South America and the Mediterranean are all screaming in agony as they sip cool drinks by the shore.

Re:Could be better (2)

emilper (826945) | more than 2 years ago | (#38474656)

They also some 25% unemployment, most of it camouflaged by one of the Hartz-es, complain that the standards of living are going down, sold their some of the industrial sector ... and some of the banks, too ... to the Russians and the Chinese, and their banks did not crash yet only because the Greeks did not declare bankruptcy.

Oh, and the health care is not all-inclusive since the 80s ... their media blames the decline on the money spent on integrating East Germany, but the decline began some 10 years before that.

Spiegel was writing about whether Germany will enter recession or not as early as 2005 ...

find a German expat and ask him or her ... might change your mind about the european paradise. You don't have a "German problem" in the US like you thought you had in the 1850s only because it's a lot harder to emigrate if the only training you have is fit for the 1950s, and wasted 3 years or more pretending to be an "apprentice carpenter" or "bread salesman" or something similar ... There are two Germanies: a high tech corporate one that you see boozing in Thailand and the other, working dodgy jobs when not in a "retraining program", and blaming the dirty foreigners for everything.

About the 60%: http://www.oecd.org/document/45/0,3746,en_21571361_44315115_47822637_1_1_1_1,00.html [oecd.org] ... (this OECD http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organisation_for_Economic_Co-operation_and_Development [wikipedia.org] ) and that is only the taxes paid directly, you have to add the other contributions that pay for the "free" health care etc. and who are not considered taxes, VAT, the fuel tax (0.85 USD per _litre_ , that is, roughly speaking 3.5 USD for a gallon only in taxes). Most of the money go on agricultural subsidies, "export compensations" (that is the EU word for dumping), infrastructure subsidies for companies etc. ... and of course keeping the army of long term unemployed relatively healthy, fed, clothed and entertained with work training programs.

Germany had an average growth rate of under 2% during the last 30 years, compared with the over 3% for US, for example. The larger German corporations grew a lot more, but guess who paid for that ... the 1% you complain in US is a lot smaller in EU.

Fake jewelry (3, Funny)

Ironchew (1069966) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465268)

"Ah ha!" a Chinese government spokesperson reportedly said. "The only way to save the planet is to melt our cadmium-laden kids' jewelry into a toothpaste-like substance. Bet you never saw that coming."

So... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465276)

...are the results of this study going to be censored by the U.S. government as well? I mean, it could be used to help people, we wouldn't want _that_ spreading across the borders.

slightly less toxic? (2)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465280)

Slightly? This is cadnium we are talking about. Its a freaking heavy metal! (And not the rock and roll kind!)

What's next, mercury funtime playsets?

Re:slightly less toxic? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465316)

I miss mercury funtime playsets. As well as "My First Millinery"

Re:slightly less toxic? (2)

HellKnite (266374) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465390)

What's next, mercury funtime playsets?

Actually, that's not next, it's already happened. My dad often tells stories about playing with mercury as a kid. Then we learned how that was a bad idea...

Re:slightly less toxic? (1)

The Grim Reefer (1162755) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465510)

What's next, mercury funtime playsets?

Actually, that's not next, it's already happened. My dad often tells stories about playing with mercury as a kid. Then we learned how that was a bad idea...

I hate how much this is going to make me sound old, but... When I was a kid thermometers were glass, filled with mercury. We were expected to be smart enough not to bite them while they were in our mouth in order to take our temperature. And yes, it was rather fun to play with. Of course I don't recall anyone being stupid enough to snort it either.

Re:slightly less toxic? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466600)

We rolled mercury around on the benches in our science class at high school. I think the teacher did advise us not to eat it, but I don't recall being told to wash our hands after handling the stuff. Mind you, this was the science teacher who set his whole bench on fire; "See students, when I hold the bunsen burner to this tube, note how the solution bubbles up the tube.." and out the top of the tube and all over the bench, then to be set ablaze when I drop the bunsen burner on it!

Re:slightly less toxic? (1)

wierd_w (1375923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465868)

Well, it's christmas, and china has to up the ante.

Everything old is just waiting to be new again.

I guess a mercury filled kinetic toy set is just waiting to happen.

*muses*

"Metal racers! Race your tiny liquid metal drops down spiral tracks! Place obstacles and traps, and watch your racers grow!"

(Think cross between a mercury droplet labyrinth, and a hotwheels playset, where the droplets pool together to escape traps and obstacles.)

Amusingly, it would probably be a very entertaining toy.

Cadmium? (3, Interesting)

glorybe (946151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465402)

Can this material keep from leeching out into the environment? How about a fire? Would we have cadmium spreading all over the place? I guess if one gets enough cadmium solar cells are no longer of much use at all.

Re:Cadmium? (1)

Thing 1 (178996) | more than 2 years ago | (#38470226)

I guess if one gets enough cadmium [...]

Mmm, Cadmium Creamy Eggs... Oh sorry, wrong holiday.

No more! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38465430)

Could we please get a moratorium on experimental solar technology articles?

Re:No more! (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#38465962)

"Could we please get a moratorium on experimental solar technology articles?"

Slashdot is an entertainment site, and tech we won't use for many years if ever is still entertaining.

Consider the ancient Popular Science magazines. Some of that stuff made it, much did not, but it was entertaining to read.

But how does it taste? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466038)

I've heard it's delicious!

High-tech 'nanoparticles' vs. asbestos? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466218)

How do all of these groovy new high-tech nanoparticles used in batteries, solar panels, and almost everything these days differ from asbestos, that nanoparticle we all have come to know and love?

Re:High-tech 'nanoparticles' vs. asbestos? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38468104)

The new ones still make money!

Remember: There are no laws. There is only energy and matter. And the energy is used, to take away your matter. :P

Cadmium - no, sorry. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38466724)

See "ouch ouch" disease.

1977 Popular Electronics Article (1)

cxbrx (737647) | more than 2 years ago | (#38467560)

This brings me back to the April, 1977 issue of (I think) Popular Electronics that had a recipe for creating solar cells at home using "3'7 Dimethylpentadecon-2-ol propionate". At the time, I was 13 and spent quite a bit of time bothering my science teaching trying figure out what 3'7 Dimethylpentadecon-2-ol propionate was and how to get some. Years later, I happened to look at the May issue and it turns out it was an April Fools' joke. Even at that time, I did laugh out loud. Anyway, if you want to see a description, check out Don Lancaster's "The worst of Marcia Swampfelder [tinaja.com] "

In addition, Marcia does have some suggestions about car stereo speaker orientation that are useful for winter driving :-^

Welcome to Christmas, I'll gift! ! (0)

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always more powerful and cheap... (1)

Mishotaki (957104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38467920)

with all those discoveries on solar cells, making them cheaper and easier to produce... why in the world are they still so expensive?

Re:always more powerful and cheap... (1)

ShooterNeo (555040) | more than 2 years ago | (#38469568)

They are a lot cheaper than they were last year. Go to sunelec.com and pick up some for bargain basement prices. (no I do not have any relationship with that site, but that is one where the $1/watt cells can actually be bought. It's also a good site for figuring return on investment)

whoa there! (1)

Goldsmith (561202) | more than 2 years ago | (#38470994)

Definitely don't do this at home. Cadmium Selenide is not something you really want to be around if you're not in a lab environment. I would feel fine having undergraduates working in a lab do this, but I wouldn't demo it at a high school, for example.

If you do want to build a solar cell like this at home, try the raspberry solar cell (google it). Very simple to build, uses more common ingredients and tools, doesn't put out as much power, but still educational and fun.

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