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Breakthrough Efficient, Paintable Solar Cells

CmdrTaco posted more than 9 years ago | from the beam-me-up-or-something dept.

Technology 445

An anonymous reader writes "A new solar cell material has been discovered that converts 30% of the sun's energy to electricity." Here's another solar news story. These new cells can harness infrared light which is why they are so much more efficient.

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How much $$$? (5, Insightful)

l810c (551591) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312712)

If it's that easy to paint on and is that efficient, why are we talking about geek clothes and not about every home having their southerly facing side painted with this stuff?

It must be expensive.

Re:How much $$$? (3, Insightful)

stupidfoo (836212) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312743)

Because that would make too much sense.

If it was actually true that they had this paint there would be no need for power plants anymore. Just paint all the houses and buildings and you're all set.

Re:How much $$$? (2, Insightful)

WinterSolstice (223271) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312763)

They were talking about house paint in the article, so I would assume it is in the plan.

I think that if the stuff is within a reasonable range, I'll definately have my house in So Cal painted with it!

-WS

From TF Summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312773)

A new solar cell material has been discovered

Of course its expensive, its just been fucking announced!

christ...

Re:How much $$$? (4, Informative)

plover (150551) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312775)

Because it was just invented. RTFA, the research was published Sunday.

Who knows if it will be expensive, cheap, emit toxic byproducts, or even be producable in consumer quantites yet? It's just research, not a factory.

Re:How much $$$? (2, Funny)

l810c (551591) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312845)

I DID RTFA, why in the hell do you think I asked the question?

Usually articles such as this, regardless of their source, contain some form of economic feasability statement etc.

Re:How much $$$? (1)

GlassUser (190787) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312920)

But that would mean there's timely news on slashdot. That just doesn't happen.

Re:How much $$$? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312869)

"every home having their southerly facing
side painted with this stuff"

Some of us live in the Southern hemisphere you insensitive clod!

It's funnier to note... (1)

baudilus (665036) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312915)

I think it's interesting that this guy is talking about having our sweaters charge our cell phones / iPods etc. First of all, who wants to have a large AC adapter plugged into their sleeve? Secondly, why not just make the piece of electronic equipment incorporate the material, so you wouldn't need to plug it into anything? Have any part of the device that's usually exposed be coated with this - you're talking about enormous amounts of "talk time" - imagine, plugging your iPod into the outlet only ONCE a day?

Re:It's funnier to note... (1)

lightsaber1 (686686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313081)

AC adapter? Ummm...do you know *why* the AC adapter is needed? It's used to convert the AC power to DC power. These things will without a doubt generate DC power, so no adapter...just a small lead to plug in. Now, that may still be too cumbersome for some, but it's not as bad as you're making it out to be. And yes, that's still far more power generated than the average cell phone uses these days, but it is portable, and probably low enough voltage it wouldn't hurt too much when you get it wet...so it doesn't hurt to have a little extra power kicking around with you.

Re:How much $$$? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313010)

I doubt that it is as expensive as a regular solar cell. That involves making a chip, packaging, etc... This is a paintable plastic. And considering that Solar cell chips are (and have been for some time) on the edge of economical, I would guess that this will tip the scale. Hopefully, the research will look hard at energy storage which will make nearly all alternative feasable and nuclear much more useful.

Re:How much $$$? (1)

k12linux (627320) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313093)

That did seem to be the main thrust of the first article didn't it? Personally it would have gotten a lot more of my attention if the focus was on a way for me to save $1000/yr in electricity bills.

I call BS (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312715)

I call BS. No way.

They love the mens!

Definition time (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312721)

NAACP = Nigger Association for the Advancement of the Criminal Populance

Excellent... (4, Funny)

inkdesign (7389) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312728)

.. as I've really been burnt up about the lost energy from my remote controls!

Re:Excellent... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312774)

jesus, that was funny. you should really quit your day job.

Re:Excellent... (1)

inkdesign (7389) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312792)

haha

Re:Excellent... (1)

afd8856 (700296) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312898)

no way, too geeky. You would need to realise that the remote uses IR... no way :)

Will Stop +1, Hyper-patriotic (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313057)

the consumption of the world's most addictive substance: OIL [cafepress.com]

Patriotically as always,
K. Trout, CTO

Okay since heat is IR... (1, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312736)

Can these cells be used to cool say a cpu getting power out of deal?
And frankly how is this different than thermalcouple?

Re:Okay since heat is IR... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312786)

Uhmm...

premise incorrect

HEAT != IR

Re:Okay since heat is IR... (1)

Savage Conan (736365) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312800)

Not to be a dork, but heat is NOT the same as infrared radiation. Heat is an energy transfer mechanism. Kind of like work. OK...I am a dork.

Re:Okay since heat is IR... (2, Informative)

Armatich_Defiant (571793) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312819)

IR != heat IR is radiation as a result of heat. Your CPU is primarily cooled by conduction (having a large heat sink absorb the heat, distribute it, then itself radiate the heat. You could surround your CPU with the stuff and get back some of the energy that was radiated through inefficiency (heat), but that wouldn't be too significant.

Re:Okay since heat is IR... (1)

TigerNut (718742) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312878)

If it could be applied densely enough (maybe if you had a very densely finned heatsink with the material deposited onto all the fin surfaces), and if the material itself had sufficient power density capability. I'm assuming it's converting IR photons into electrical energy by stimulating a potential difference somehow - I'm not a theoretical physicist. Maybe it's like a reverse laser?
This would be different from a thermocouple because from what I can tell it's not based on junctions between two different metals, and it's not based on having a hot junction and a separate cold junction.

No, heat is not IR... (2, Informative)

amstrad (60839) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312938)

all too frequently, people use this misconception. Heat is not equivalent to infrared energy.

You see heat in infrared images because things of the temperatures that are common on the Earth (people, plants, cars, etc. ) have blackbody radiation curves [electro-optical.com] that peak in infrared band.

Don't get me started on people that confuse light amplification with infrared cameras.

Re:Okay since heat is IR... (3, Informative)

elgatozorbas (783538) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313055)

For starters: heat is not the same as IR. ALL bodies (except perfect reflectors) at nonzero temperature radiate ligth. For very hot ones, this is visible, for rather cold ones this is IR (i.e. 'below red'). You can also heat something by shining other than IR light on it.

These devices don't suck the radiation out of stuff, just like a (digital) camera doesn't suck light from the object you photograph. You can therefore not use them to cool anything, afaik. CPU coolers suck heat out of your cpu because they offer it a lower temperature, and heat flows from low to high temperature.

These things are different from a thermalcouple in the sense that they are in a completely different ballpark. A thermocouply supplies you with electricity as long as you can maintain a temperature difference over it, or it will drain heat from its cold side and add it to its hot side (increasing the difference) if you supply electricity to it. The things in the article supply you with electricity when you shine a light on them and are probably destroyed when you supply electricity to them.

Z

Cana-DUH strikes again! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312744)

Wow, an actual invention coming out of the dumbasses in Cana-DUH. I guess their retarded socialist, weakling country actually has a couple of useful people in it after all!

Re:Cana-DUH strikes again! (0, Flamebait)

Anita Coney (648748) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312817)

How dare you criticize a country which brought us Triumph, Bob and Doug McKenzie, and Celine Dion. Ooops... never mind.

Re:Cana-DUH strikes again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312914)

Take off, ya hoser!

Re:Cana-DUH strikes again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313067)

Fuck you! We're taking insulin back. Let's see your overweight asses live without us Canadians.

Ah, great! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312747)

So... What new units does this get us?

*playing too much Alpha Centurai lately*

Re:Ah, great! (0, Redundant)

popo (107611) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312910)


Oh my god... LMFAO... somebody please mod that up...

Re:Ah, great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312945)

It gets us the new measurement unit of "% of sun's energy." 10% of the sun's energy is roughly equivelent to 10,000,000 libraries of congress or 2,300,133 football fields of power. Use google convert for exact conversion units, or round to number of volkswagon beetles.

Re:Ah, great! (1)

Col. Bloodnok (825749) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313089)

Solar shock troops!

Woo (5, Funny)

grub (11606) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312764)


So if I spray that on my tinfoil hat and run a couple of leads to my laptop I could have unlimited power!

Re:Woo (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312894)

Unlimited power? Maybe. Real ultimate power, I'm afraid not.

Re:Woo (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312942)

So if I spray that on my tinfoil hat and run a couple of leads to my laptop I could have unlimited power!

But is it worth the risks? If I undrstood the article correctly you'd have to go outside...

wow! (2, Funny)

Savage Conan (736365) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312769)

If this pans out this could change the energy economy in this country. Not to mention the benefit third world countries could get from it. Imagine your grafitti powering your laptop.

Re:wow! (2, Insightful)

Manchot (847225) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312879)

You know what'll happen though, don't you? The FDA will claim that this stuff it hazardous to your health, and that oil is much safer to use for energy purposes. They will then bar the importation of the technology from Canada.

Seriously, though, Big Oil will try to squash this like a bug, and the U.S. government will follow suit.

Great canadian inventions! (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312770)

Noo doot aboot it!

Shirts/sweaters capable of recharging cell phones (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312771)

This will be a blow to the dryer sheet industry as static cling will now be seen as a renewable energy source.

We are the Borg (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312785)

Wearable solar panels... Resistance is Futile.

Carnak: Resistance is Futile? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313015)

What did the borg say to the room-temperature superconductor?

Just what I need... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312790)

Just what I need ... for my Solar Powered Art Gallery!

i'll be the envy of all eco-artists!

How much energy? (4, Interesting)

DaveInAustin (549058) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312794)

One key thing that isn't answered in the article (or almost any other articles about "alternative energy sources). How does energy does it take to make this material compare with home much energy it can produce?

Re:How much energy? (3, Informative)

ThosLives (686517) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313042)

This is irrelevant for something like a solar cell. A solar cell might take lots of energy to produce, but as long as there is the correct incident radiation and the device works, it will produce energy. For instance, say, it takes 10 MJ to produce one of these capable of produce one watt. The 10 MJ will be made up in 10 million seconds, which is not quite 4 months. (1e7 seconds / 86.4e4 seconds/day = 115 days and some change.) My guess is that's on the right order of magnitude.

Note that this material doesn't "produce" energy at all - it just converts it from the sun (which is the thing sending all the energy our way in the first place). This is different than, say, hydrogen, which is an energy storage medium; you have to put energy into hydrogen to store it, then you get a little less out. With these, you simply build the device, then use (solar) radiation to create a current.

Energy solutions... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312797)

This is a huge mile marker in solar technology. They're no where near close to being good yet but they're getting significantly better and the quicker we get solar up and running at a reasonable price/performance ratio the faster that power plants can be replaced with granola-friendly versions.

We're gonna need all that electricity... (5, Funny)

razmaspaz (568034) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312799)

converts 30% of the sun's energy to electricity.

We are gonna need all that electricity because if the sun is 30% smaller than it was before this thing our heating bills are gonna go way up!

Looks like new work (2, Interesting)

Lonesome Squash (676652) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312801)

Interesting. Sargent has lots of papers [kluweronline.com] about electroluminescence, and even photoconductivity [aip.org] using these quantum dots. But this looks like new work. The earliest reference I see is from September.

I always am skeptical when I see articles about new exciting energy sources in the popular press, but this looks exciting. I wonder what the material's physical properties are -- how it stands up to wear, radiation, etc., and especially, how much it costs to make and apply.

Question from the wife of the future (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312805)

Does this recharging unit make my ass look big?

Re:Question from the wife of the future (1)

ip_freely_2000 (577249) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312896)

This almost made me shoot 7Up out my nose. If I had mod points, this would have gotten them all.

Re:Question from the wife of the future (1)

the_mushroom_king (708305) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312946)

I wonder if geeks will begin to persue big bottomed women so that can keep gadgets running longer. -- TMK

Hate to be a Pessimist, BUT..... (1)

Jeffery (810339) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312806)

Energy Companies will never invest in this great technological breakthrough to use for bringing power to homes/businesses. They are Fat Cats just like the *AA's and Telecoms. They love all the big profit they are making, and would never jeapordize that.

Re:Hate to be a Pessimist, BUT..... (2, Informative)

ftzdomino (555670) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312876)

http://bpsolar.com http://www.shell.com/home/Framework?siteId=shellso lar

Re:Hate to be a Pessimist, BUT..... (2, Insightful)

Non Est Tanti (848280) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312906)

Couldn't they use it themselves and sell the electricity it generates through their wires?

Re:Hate to be a Pessimist, BUT..... (3, Interesting)

tallbill (819601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312924)

Start your own energy company.
Invest in a technological breakthrough.
In a Free Enterprise system you are free to do that.

You don't have to wait around for anyone else, do it yourself.

There is nothing wrong with big profit as long as you don't enslave people in the process. Also, if you make a lot, then you can share a lot.

Wealthy and powerful people are not categorically and necessarily greedy and selfish as you seem to imply with your post. But being wealthy and powerful makes one (I believe) more susceptible to personality traits that are loathsome to many others.
With great wealth comes great responsibility. Wealth in this sense is a curse. But the curse can be overcome.

Re:Hate to be a Pessimist, BUT..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313030)

OP is absolutely correct. However, the key to this new technology is it will enable people to get off grid. I forsee communities relying on solar (and eventually wind) for all of their energy needs. Using hydrogen as a convenient energy storage medium, self-sufficiency is just around the corner.

It is up to YOU, the individual, to start making the right choices. With more technological breakthroughs, extracting yourself from the economic mire of the world becomes even simpler.

The future is coming, and big business will be left behind.

Hate to be a Realist but... (2, Insightful)

ifwm (687373) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313041)

"They love all the big profit they are making, and would never jeapordize that"

Ok, so you're saying that they're in business to make money, but since this will presumably make lots of money and solve many power supply problems, they won't do it?

Explain how that makes sense.

Oil companies are businesses, not evil entities like you suggest. They are governed by boards of directors, who are (generally) LEGALLY REQUIRED to do what is in the shareholder's best interests (usually meaning make money). Yet you surmise we'll never get this technology because...why? If it can make money, we'll see it. Period. Because regardless, someone somewhere WILL develop it if it has potential, if it will make money.

Hate to be the optimist, BUT ... (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313091)

They do not have to invest in this. This will show up on highway signs (how about road markers), cell phone covers, even laptops. I am suspecting that roofing shingles will get replaced with aluminin covered with this to generate electricity for the house (heat if nothing else). The energy companies will have no choice but to tap it. Where they will need to put their effort into is energy storage, so that they can pay a little and charge a lot.

Working indoors under fluourescent lighting? (2, Insightful)

PornMaster (749461) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312807)

I spend most of my daylight hours during the week under fluourescent lighting with no natural light (underwhelming cubeworld). Fluourescents don't give off much IR, right?

While I can see that it could be wonderful for some things, I think I'm better off plugging my phone into the wall to charge.

Re:Working indoors under fluourescent lighting? (2, Informative)

bbrack (842686) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312908)

since most photoelectrics work off the same principle (photon moves electron to a higher energy state, and so forth) fluourescents would probably work fine. The difference with IR is that their wavelength is much lower - thus the energy is lower, and absorption is that much more difficult (long, detailed explanation omitted)

All those keystrokes... (2, Interesting)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312822)

Well, so much for this entire thread [slashdot.org] . Can't believe we wasted all that typing.

Re:All those keystrokes... (1)

rdurell (827253) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312979)

Of course we don't HAVE to waste those keystorkes. If only we could harness the power of all those keystorkes and convert to electricity. I'm smelling a geek challenege here.... keyboard powered fan anyone? I wonder if you could generate enought electricity to power an old ZX81?

How do we paint it on the Sun? (3, Insightful)

tallbill (819601) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312823)

OK, I am being silly, what the thing should read of instead of
Converts 30% of the Sun's Energy to Electricity

Perhaps what they mean is
Converts 30% of the incident light energy to electricity

After all, the Sun is realeasing a lot of energy, most of which will never hit the Earth.

Re:How do we paint it on the Sun? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312991)

if u can convert 30 and 10 or 1. u can convert 100% of it

From the Article (1)

SirGarlon (845873) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313000)

"In fact, there's enough power from the sun hitting the Earth every day to supply all the world's needs for energy 10,000 times over,''

Umm, yeah, except we're already using that to, you know, heat the planet's surface. So the oceans stay liquid. And stuff.

Re:From the Article (2, Insightful)

gewalker (57809) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313094)

Converting 30% of it into electricity (temporarily) that is eventually dissipated as waste heat would not alter the energy balance that warms the earth.

Re:How do we paint it on the Sun? (1)

UWC (664779) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313003)

Perhaps amend your amendment to read:

Converts 30% of the incident solar light energy to electricity

I'd imagine that the sun's spectrum is reasonably unique among other spectra on Earth, and that the new material reacts differently to different wavelengths, so that while it converts 30% of the solar spectrum that hits it, the incident energy from, say, an incandescent bulb might be converted at a different efficiency, as its spectrum would differ from that of the sun.

it supposedly involves "quantum dots" (1)

lbergstr (55751) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312829)

Yeah, I'm sure inexpensive mass production of this stuff is right around the corner.

Link to Slashdot (1)

BabyJaysus (808429) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312831)

Ah, I see the link to Slashdot:
"When you have a material advance which literally materially changes the way that energy is absorbed and transmitted to our devices... somebody out there tinkering away in a bedroom or in a government lab is going to come up with a great idea for a new device that will shock us all,'' he said in a phone interview. "When the Internet was created nobody envisioned that the killer app (application) would be e-mail or instant messaging.''
Umm... OK...

Re:Link to Slashdot (1)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313070)

When the Internet was created nobody envisioned that the killer app (application) would be e-mail or instant messaging

Huh? The Internet was created explicitly *FOR* e-mail and instant messaging, even if they weren't called that at the time.

I'm sure the media would have you believe it was created to make it easier for consumers to buy goods and services from the comfort of their own home, but from its very first days, it was a means for communication and nothing more.

No way... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312833)

The film has the ability to be sprayed or woven into shirts so that our cuffs or collars could recharge our IPods, Sargent said.
Hmmm, I assume this means that I have to go outside?

Okay, I RTFA... (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312837)

...and I have to say that I'm confused.

Converting 30% of the sun's energy? That's a LOT of frikken engery!!! I think they mean to say 30% of the energy received from the sun rather than 30% of the sun's energy. The Earth itself doesn't get 30% of the sun's energy.

That said, BRAVO! We need more efficient solar energy stuff. Painted on or solid doesn't matter to me. If they can make it super dense or layer it in some way, I'll bet they can make some really efficient collector devices. Well anyway... yeah....good news....

Canada "socialists" beating out American science? (0, Troll)

Cryofan (194126) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312860)

But...but...but...I thought American science was so much more advanced than anywhere else in the world, especially in places like Canada, where they have "socialized" medicine....eewwww---> COMMIES!

I thought America was carrying the rest of the world on its back when it came to Real Science....

Re:Canada "socialists" beating out American scienc (1)

NerdBuster (831349) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312959)

Geee, you got us there! The US has only done stupid things like the pioneer the computer, flight, space travel, countless drugs to better humanity....blah blah blah.

Re:Canada "socialists" beating out American scienc (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313013)

look how they moderated me:
>>>>.
Moderation -2
50% Troll
50% Flamebait
Extra 'Troll' Modifier
>>>>>>.

"Extra 'Troll' Modifier"! That's rich!

How do I post a comment to the main article? (0, Offtopic)

hermango (619774) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312870)

I've asked this time and again, and I've still not found anyone that can help me. How do you post a comment to the main article and not a comment to the comment? Help, please! And, yes, I've looked at the FAQ, which is no help at all.

Re:How do I post a comment to the main article? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11313005)

Top of the page; click reply.

Re:How do I post a comment to the main article? (1)

RetroGeek (206522) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313085)

Just underneath the story, above the comments is a "Reply" button.

Potential != Realized (5, Informative)

Daxton (848237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312877)

If you check the original press release [eurekalert.org] , you'll notice UT says the 30% efficiency might be realized "with further improvements in efficiency". The reporter for CTV missed that little nuance.

Believe it when you see it (4, Insightful)

markus_baertschi (259069) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312881)

I'll believe it when I can buy it for a reasonable cost at a store in town.

For years we have every couple of months there a new revolutionary way to convert solar rays to electricity. Unfortunately none has managed to work in the real world except the good old silicon solar cells.

Markus

Re:Believe it when you see it (1)

rly2000 (779141) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313059)

you're right.

this technology is useless unless it is affordable. much of the time, space isn't an issue -- it's cost per watt. If this new technology is prohibitively expensive than no customer is going to be interested in it.

along those lines, current solar modules being installed on residential rooftops usually have an efficiency of about 14% [bpsolar.com] , not the 5% that the article claims.

30% of what? W = V A (1, Interesting)

manganese4 (726568) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312889)

So is that a 30% quantum efficiency, i.e. 30 percent of photons absorbed are converted to an electron? or does it truly represent a 30% convertion of watts? I kinda doubt since you will not get anymore electrons (Amps) than you have photon (fluence) and the decrease in energy (Volts) from the visible to the infrared is more than 30% (unless by infra red they mean 1000 nm). Rememeber Watss = Volts Amps.

Re:30% of what? W = V A (2, Informative)

stratjakt (596332) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312993)

30% of nothing. They figure it could in theory get 30% efficiency, just as soon as *INSERT BREAKTHROUGH IN CHEMICAL OR PHYSICAL SCIENCE HERE* happens.

This sounds just like every other moon-man technology of the future. Hydrogen will revolutionize our economy! (Just as soon as we figure out how to collect and store it) A space elevator will mean cheap orbital trips, space tourism, extraplanetary mining, a trip to mars- all we need to do is invent the material we need to build it out of.

Bah.

They put metal in some paint and noticed it releases electrons when exposed to light.

It's called the photoelectric effect and it happens with all metals, and Einstein won a nobel prize for explaining it 100 years ago.

Next thing you know, an oil company buys it, (2, Interesting)

melted (227442) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312909)

destroys it and sweeps the remaining dust under the rug. Five times more effective - that sure sounds pretty dangerous to them.

Watch for PR campaigns explaining to the layman just how dangerous this plastic is, why it shouldn't be used and researched and just how much better the good ol' oil is.

Painted shirts? (4, Interesting)

strider_starslayer (730294) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312921)

I notice his primary theoretical application was painting shirts so that you can charge your Ipod. What about buildings damnit!

With a nearly 5x increase in power efficency, and the ability to simply paint it on this material strikes me as being ideal for partially powering houses. You paint your roof every summer (Or if the paint is particularly durable every 5 years) and get a grid tie in possibly paying nothing during particiarly sunny monthes.

Of course I supose it ultimately comes down to how expensive this stuff is. When I last looked into solar grid tie ins, it would have cost about 30,000 (cdn.) to get only a few kilowatts of output- the panels were insured for 25 years; and it would have taken 20 for them to pay for themselves, and that dosen't count the concept of any of them breaking in heavy hail, or snow buildup. Not a great investment.

If this paint is durable enough to be put on clothes, and cheap enough to have that done as well, I think that painting the roofs of houses should be the primary applicatino, not keeping all your portable gadgets charged...

Re:Painted shirts? (2, Interesting)

BlowChunx (168122) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313101)

Maybe you missed this? [oreillynet.com]

Sure it's about conventional photovoltaics in California, but it seems economic to me.

Ouch... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312939)

The film has the ability to be sprayed or woven into shirts so that our cuffs or collars could recharge our IPods, Sargent said. "...somebody out there tinkering away in a bedroom or in a government lab is going to come up with a great idea for a new device that will shock us all,", he said in a phone interview.

30% and sprayable but how much $$$ (1)

Jtheletter (686279) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312941)

Neither article makes any mention of how expensive this new film is to produce. Granted, it is still in the development stages, but nanoparticles can be very costly to manufacture, mostly because the controls involved in producing such precise chemistry (in this case nano-rods 8 carbon atoms long) usually prohibit large-sale batch making techniques. Unless/until these particles can be mass produced cheaply, it will likely be just as cost-prohibitive as current solar panel tech.

I would love to be able to buy a quart of Rustoleum Outdoor SolarPaint (TM), and just apply it to the sunny side of my house and plug it into the grid, but I have a feeling it'll be decades before I can do that w/o applying for a second mortgage for just the paint!

POTENTIAL 30%, not actual (5, Insightful)

starseeker (141897) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312954)

Slashdot does this every once in a while - announce some tremendous new solar energy technology. Folks, it's not easy to get 30%. And even if you do, you haven't won the war. The best, most expensive cells can make those ranges, but they are not something you can put on the assembly line.

I did some research into Cu(In,Ga)(S,Se) thin film solar cells, which have long been a promising material for this type of application. I don't claim to know all about the various options out there (there are a lot of them) but I feel I can safely say there just aren't any magic bullets to this problem. Let me give you some idea of what has to happen.

a) You need a cell with a high enough efficiency to make the power it can produce worth the hassle of installing it. This is hard and the focus of most solar cell research.

b) Even if you GET that cell, you have to be able to make a LOT of them. Cheaply. Very cheaplly if you want to compete with grid power.

c) These materials have to stand up to long term punishment, intense thermal cycling over the course of day and night temperature shifts for twenty years, etc.

d) You have to install the supporting systems - either connect it to grid, get a large energy storage array (i.e. batteries) or both. If you want a battery based local storage system that gets expensive, all by itself.

e) You need to build the industrial support required to make large scale deployment both possible and cost effective. Si, the current dominant material, has a lot going for it because a lot got learned over the course of decades of semiconductor technology. Those tools are somewhat applicable to Si. If you want to use something totally different (i.e. a thin film) you have to make all the gear more or less from the ground up. That's a big initial capital investment for a dubious return.

f) If you want flexible solar cells, you have a whole new set of problems to handle/test, like how the cell performs while being folded repeatedly in different temperature conditions, creased, beat up generally, etc. And flexible cells are a bit of a specialty market - the military likes the idea, sports folks like it, but for large scale fixed installation use (i.e. where bulk production would happen) flexible isn't all that critical. (Although it is nice when it comes to things like roofs withstanding hail storms, but apparently regular ones don't do so hot there anyway.)

g) THEN, after you solved the problems of cost effective production, storage, retrofitting of housing, etc. etc. etc. you have to convince people it's worth the trouble to install it. And I remind you this is the land of the SUV, so I wish you luck with any marketing effort that can't say "We're cheaper than grid power!". Grid power is CHEAP. VERY cheap. It's a really really hard target to hit, and the solar cell technology available today just isn't there yet. There are lots of "potential" 30% configurations - all you need to do, in theory, is have a multijunction device with the right bandgaps. But let me tell you, it ain't easy.

Now, somebody might make a sudden miracle discovery of a cheap 30% cell material. Such things do happen. But I'll want to see a lot of (reproducable) proof, and peer review, before I'll buy it. It's good advertising to claim high performance, but I'll be impressed when someone goes through the nitty gritty and comes out with a viable product.

Efficiency comparison? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#11312957)

Didn't RTFA, but how does this compare to other state-of-the-art solar panels for efficiency? I'm wondering if it is more or less efficient; if more I'd presume it could lead to satellites that are smaller and lighter, allowing for cheaper satellite launches...

Interesting quote (3, Funny)

one9nine (526521) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312964)

"When you have a material advance which literally materially changes the way that energy is absorbed and transmitted to our devices... somebody out there tinkering away in a bedroom or in a government lab is going to come up with a great idea for a new device that will shock us all," he said in a phone interview.

I hope he means "shock us all" figurativley.

cup o' Cold Fussion anyone? (1)

VoidPoint (634537) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312981)

enough said

Other factors? (1)

Sylver Dragon (445237) | more than 9 years ago | (#11312982)

A few things the article seem to miss:
What is the longevity of this material? Can you spray once and leave it for years, or does it degrade over time?
How much does this stuff cost? They mention quantum dots, so are we talking about exotic materials which are going to be expensive?
How do environmental factors affect this stuff? Will it hold up to rain, wind, sun?
How nasty are the chemicals in making it? The process to make most solar cells involve some nasty chemicals, granted, compared to coal ash and massive pollution, it might be worth it.
It sounds exciting, 30% efficancy might make me a convert to solar.

Meeting with Venture Capatalist (2, Funny)

frostfreek (647009) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313016)

Sargent: "the new plastic composite is, in layman's terms, a layer of film that "catches'' solar energy. "

VC: looks sceptical
Sargent: "ummm, with the laser beams, umm, clayven"
VC: inks the contract

Good stuff! (1)

MrRuslan (767128) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313019)

It's only a matter of time before people relize how much money they can sav on bills if the put one on top of the house or on the roof of a car. Perhaps it will not make your house or car 100% solar but I'm sure that hybrid houses and cars would be good for the enviroment and our wallets!

Finally!! (1)

RAMMS+EIN (578166) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313027)

with those new solar cells that convert heat to electricity, we can finally dispense with the whole bunch of fossil fuel and nuclear power plants, which are all based on the outdated paradigm of...oh wait...

Not the same, but .. (2, Interesting)

Jim Hall (2985) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313079)

I did some research work when I was a physics student, and I took data for a bunch of researchers at the National Renewable Energy Labs [nrel.gov] back in the mid-nineties. My specific project was working with a new CdTe based thin-film material to be used in solar cells. It was so easy to deposit on glass substrates that we referred to it as "painting the glass." This made it very easy to mass produce.

However, the new material mentioned in TFA is very different from that. The material I worked with only derived energy from visible light - this material works in the IR bands, and I find that even more interesting as it's vastly under-explored. I'm not so sure about his "weaving it into fabrics" idea, but for sure it will help boost traditional solar cell (PV) gain.

Where are the wires (1)

emacs_abuser (140283) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313092)

I don't get it, they talk about painting this stuff onto some surface. In order to carry the charge away I think you need to connect wires to the positive and negative polls of the charge generator.

For comparison (1)

jwdb (526327) | more than 9 years ago | (#11313098)

30% is very good, but only an additional 6% above what an experimental silicon cell can get.

Some figures:
Highest experimental eficiency: 24.7% monocrystalline Si, 19.8% multicrystalline Si
Typical industrial products: 17-18% mono, 13-15% multi
Other experimental crystalline materials vary between 10% and 20%

The maximum theoretical efficiency of a Si cell is in the 29-33% range.

BTW, these are numbers from 3 or 4 years ago.

Jw
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