Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Cheap Paint-able Solar Cells Developed

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the finally-a-use-for-fullerenes dept.

Power 254

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes "Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. According to the lead researcher, "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations." The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) to form snake-like structures. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons. The article abstract is available through the Journal of Materials Chemistry, with an illustration of the technology."

cancel ×

254 comments

Interesting (3, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 7 years ago | (#19922169)

It will take a drop in price before solar panels finally hit the big time. But boy, when they do drop expect an explosion of uses.

Re:Interesting (2, Interesting)

russ1337 (938915) | about 7 years ago | (#19922465)

It will take a drop in price before solar panels finally hit the big time

I currently live in Texas and have had a summer electricity bill of over $400 for one month, last year. It won't take TXU's "increased prices due to demand" *cough* gouging *cough* much more, for me to splash out 8 grand for 2 large solar cells just to power a mid-size stand alone Cooling/heating unit....

The lower the cost of the panels just recoups my investment earlier, but its almost worth doing for the sheer smugness gained by not paying the electric company summer ransom.

Re:Interesting (1, Interesting)

fractoid (1076465) | about 7 years ago | (#19923603)

I just thought of this so it may not work, but... maybe instead of 8 grand for solar cells, spend 2 grand on mirrors and 1-inch-think polystyrene sheets? Cover your external walls and roof with mirrored insulation and I'd imagine you'd drop your cooling power requirements by an order of magnitude.

I know I know, damn hippies and their passive thermally-efficient spacecake-looking houses... :P

Re:Interesting (2, Informative)

arivanov (12034) | about 7 years ago | (#19923691)

It does. I nearly put airconditioning in my house 3 years ago. Having the walls, loft and roof insulated to a higher standard more or less did with that idea. It no longer warms up to the same extent (and cools down to the same extent in winter).

Re:Interesting (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19924163)

At $400 per month, I would check to see how much of that is just the cooling bill and how much is increased energy costs. I think I would agree on the gouging too.

I would also check the life expectancy of the solar panels and weather they have the ability to save the excess charge to use when the sun isn't available. $400 per month (assuming your other electrical needs are trivial to the cooling, would take almost 2 years to recoup the costs and break even. Now, on top of that, you only have the sun half the day when it isn't raining so you can almost double that to 4 years to break even with half to a third of your cooling bill on top still. If it still looks good after that and the cells will last longer then the break even point, go for it. If it doesn't, then find another excuse to do it, saving money is probably not going to happen.

On the other hand, as some people have already noted, redoing the insulation and maybe adding some more might go a lot further then solar cells would. This is especially true if you have the blown in cellulose type of insulation that from what I have been told can be effected many different ways and lose it's ability to insulate after a period of time. Water seems to be the most damaging. Also, Something that had happened with My fathers 10 year old house, they use the spray foam insulation, Well the settling had caused crack to develop that while the wall still had a good R value, the equivalent of a 3 inch hole spread through a crack about half a centimeter and several feet long defeated the effectiveness.

There are people you can call who will hook a large fan to your door and check for leaks in the insulation and then use infrared (not the green night vision but the one on the other end of the spectrum) to find hot or cold spots and help you seal the house up. My dad heats with wood and this process took him from 6 to 7 cord a year with a chilly house to a more then hot enough house with 2-3 cord or so. He only air conditions the bedroom with a small window mount unit and he says it doesn't come on as often as it used to. The rest of the house, if you can get it somewhat cool at night, it doesn't heat up in the day unless you open the curtains in the souther room and let the sun in. He also got some plastic that blocks or reflects the majority of the sunlight that causes the room to heat up. This is removable in the winter time and reusable the next year. Helps a lot.

Re:Interesting (4, Funny)

Xymor (943922) | about 7 years ago | (#19922677)

And then those danm hippies will say we're overusing the Sun's light.

I'm not a republican, I'm just joking.

Re:Interesting (3, Funny)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | about 7 years ago | (#19923015)

Well, yeah, you can't just go around changing the planet's albedo by spreading solar cells everywhere and expect to get away with it! What would Al Gore say?

Impeaching the messengers (1, Interesting)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 7 years ago | (#19923509)

And then those danm hippies will say we're overusing the Sun's light.

I'm not a republican, I'm just joking.

When you see this type of logic and it is meant, it's very revealing that they aren't listening to what you say, only what you sound like when you say it. "If you want me to do X, and I do X, you'll just say I should be doing Y because you complain and complain and that's all you do- I have therefore categorized you as an idiot or [member of disliked group] and so anything you say about X must not be true." Anyone who brings it up is automatically an idiot whose opinions can be disregarded. Similar thinking: "If you think X is a problem, you shouldn't be talking about it unless it has affected you personally, otherwise you've either got no idea whether X is really a problem, or you have an ulterior motive and secretly want to make it worse." If the person is affected by X, then aha, that's why. People who think like this drive me crazy. And there are so many of them. They especially fall for "bias"-type arguments. There is no messenger you cannot impeach with an attitude like that, and by impeaching the right messengers you're free to construct any sort of alternate paper-thin reality you want that can exclude any X you choose.

So if this takes off and ends up confusing the bees or something, I think they're pretty much screwed.

These guys should make a hydrophobic liquid that can be poured on top of a large water surface, like a swimming pool, and turn it into a big solar cell. That way you could just pour it on your pool to get a few kilowatts of free power and during an energy crisis we can just go to a large body of water and pour a big photovoltaic slick across the water. Yee hah wouldn't that piss off the hippies! Of course the drawback here is obvious: no swimming pool when the A/C is on.

Re:Impeaching the messengers (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19923997)

And there is no messenger you can't impeach by accusing them of impeaching a previous messenger.

How to make the price of Solar cheaper (2, Informative)

philpalm (952191) | about 7 years ago | (#19922829)

This recent article mentions the efficiency factor is getting better and it has tried this method out:
http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19044/ [technologyreview.com]
Unlike the theoretical method mentioned by slash dot.
Disclaimer: I am a graduate of UCSB so I am biased.

Hey sounds great (3, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | about 7 years ago | (#19922175)

I knew that they would come up with cheap paintable solar cells. I'll pick them up in my flying car.

Efficiency is Missing (5, Insightful)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 7 years ago | (#19922383)

What is conspicuously missing from that article is any kind of a figure for the conversion efficiency of the devices they're making. Lots of researchers have been working on fullerines. What efficiency are they achieving? 5 percent? 1 percent? A tenth of a percent? Lacking any kind of number for efficiency-- preferably an efficiency measurement verified by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory-- tends to make me think that this is theory with no actual devices manufactured at all.

Re:Efficiency is Missing (2, Informative)

catprog (849688) | about 7 years ago | (#19922613)

If you have a large enough area then efficiency doesn't matter only cost per watt.

Re:Efficiency is Missing (3, Insightful)

mechsoph (716782) | about 7 years ago | (#19923445)

A roof and back yard are only so big.

Re:Efficiency is Missing (2, Informative)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 years ago | (#19923645)

You can do a pretty good job with a 15'x30' (450 sq') area of solar cells.
An average house has about 2000 sq' (perhaps 1k sq' facing south).

So they would need to be at least about 50% as efficient as the current cells.

The big factor is cost. If we can get them down to 5k instead of 50k for enough cells for a typical house, it changes everything.

Re:Efficiency is Missing (3, Funny)

MillionthMonkey (240664) | about 7 years ago | (#19923745)

Yeah but you should see my Hummer H2!

Re:Hey sounds great (2, Funny)

Tablizer (95088) | about 7 years ago | (#19923623)

I knew that they would come up with cheap paintable solar cells. I'll pick them up in my flying car.

For the car?

"Cloud. Oh fuck!"

     

say what (-1, Troll)

efceeveea (1128063) | about 7 years ago | (#19922189)

SECOND POST Paint your dick with this solar paint so if you ever end up in an old hentai your dick will produce electricity.

how much more? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922199)

are you going to do the right thing?

Of course! (1)

Citius (991975) | about 7 years ago | (#19922221)

It's time to surpass the nudists, green energy compliance, and all other consortiums. We shall paint our bodies with solar cells as we jog through the desert! Body painting party, anyone?

Re:Of course! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922673)

i just love the n00bs around here. so insightful that they can't even crack a joke correctly.

Re:Of course! (1)

Bad D.N.A. (753582) | about 7 years ago | (#19923055)

We shall paint our bodies with solar cells as we jog through the desert!

I find your concept disturbing.

Re:Of course! (1)

Citius (991975) | about 7 years ago | (#19923827)

Of course you do. You should. For that matter, I was highly disturbed when, for our 'ecoawareness day' at Duke, one of my friends was walking around in just a speedo and bodypaint...in the form of Captain Planet. If that's what he does with *normal* paint, who knows what will happen with *eco-friendly* paint. Heh.

It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19922209)

I suppose. It's so strange these days. You see people doing research, then posing for a photo and making a press release. Then.. nothing. The promises and predictions don't amount to actual products that people can buy. But I suppose they do get you more grant money.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (1)

verySmartApe (1053716) | about 7 years ago | (#19922575)

Your cynicism if forgiveable. But kidding aside, "getting more grant money" is a worthy goal. The payoff from basic research isn't visible to the average joe for 20-50 years (and sometimes never). Still, it's worth doing, and I enjoy the press releases.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19922785)

This is hardly basic research. It's clearly applied research and should be commercialized.

In the mean time, these guys should stop making false claims (it's cheap!) as it discredits the entire research community.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (1)

dido (9125) | about 7 years ago | (#19923243)

Well, in the absence of grant money the possibility for anyone making it from research idea to actual product that is anywhere close to the promises and predictions become zero, as opposed to merely remote.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 7 years ago | (#19923383)

research idea to actual product == venture capital.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (2, Insightful)

arivanov (12034) | about 7 years ago | (#19923737)

Not really. It takes on the average 5-12 years for most ideas based on discoveries in physics, chemistry or math to start raking in profits. Biotech is slightly better, but not by much. These timeframes are way beyond any VC patience. The only way to finance research that takes that long is either if you are working on a state grant or if you are working for a big corp with a state-like research division (blue 2 and 3 letter words come to mind).
VCs are usefully once you have a prototype and a proof of concept to actually do the engineering work and deliver a product. That takes 1-3 years on average and this is a timeline VCs are happy to cope with.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (2, Insightful)

zCyl (14362) | about 7 years ago | (#19923761)

And government grants do not like to fund projects that are moving into the product phase, because they want businesses to pick up the slack there. So a lot of products fall into the moneyless black hole in between proof of principle and product.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (1)

donaldm (919619) | about 7 years ago | (#19923727)

If you are the head of a research group and you have something interesting and not necessarily commercially viable at the time there is nothing like approaching the press to drum up support to get the appropriate funding or that crucial extra grant. A little bit of showmanship goes a long way, especially when that translates to funding for a pet project. Of course having commercial possibilities is also a very good selling point as well. While what I have said may appear cynical to some it does happen, however in the long-term this type of research can actually benefit the whole community.

As for "strange these days", scientific showmanship has been around since the first human decided that walking upright was a neat idea and this strange black material when hit certain way will produce a smaller stone with a very sharp edge.

Re:It's easier to predict than to make it happen.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19923843)

That's capitalism for ya!

wook wook wook

Sweet (1)

Kirizan (1130383) | about 7 years ago | (#19922243)

Hmm, I wonder if I can paint my car with this and tell big oil to !$#@ off? Alternate fuel sorces anyone?

Re:Sweet (4, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 7 years ago | (#19922387)

Hmm, I wonder if I can paint my car with this and tell big oil to !$#@ off?

Nope. Not enough power.

But maybe if you paved a couple acres and painted THAT you could collect enough power to charge your car.

Re:Sweet (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | about 7 years ago | (#19922541)

Well, he could probably offset the power it takes to run his dashboard lights.

Re:Sweet (5, Interesting)

timeOday (582209) | about 7 years ago | (#19922845)

What would be really elegant is painting roads to collect solar power for cars. There is a whole lot of road out there!

Re:Sweet (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19923839)

That... that.... that would be....

*Wanders off to think about the sheer elegance of that idea*

Pitty this currently costs so much, and there are probably issues with maintaining it, but still!

Charging a car (4, Informative)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 years ago | (#19923041)

Most single storey houses have enough roof space to allow current silicon panels to both power the house (under net metering) and charge a plug-in hybrid. It does not take acres. If you have a taller house, you might need some yard space since you've got more floor per unit roof to power. Polymer panels may hit 10% efficiency befor to long. The current record is 6.5%http://www.technologyreview.com/Energy/19044/ [technologyreview.com] , so there is not all that far to go to catch up with 16-20% efficient silicon.
--
Sprout silicon leaves: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Charging a car (1)

Maxo-Texas (864189) | about 7 years ago | (#19923735)

And you figure... 4 hours of parking til lunch, 4 more hours of parking until you leave work.

That's a fair amount of time to generate power to store.

The main issues might be
* theft
* hail & storm damage

We have pluggable hybrid conversions now. It seems like you could charge those with solar as well as you can charge them with solar.

A 100 watt (dc) panel takes about 2'x4'. I think it takes several of those to make 100 watts at 20amps tho.

Re:Sweet (1)

waynemcdougall (631415) | about 7 years ago | (#19923341)

So what you're saying is:

We have to pave the earth [geocities.com] in order to save it [rwor.org]

Paint-able? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922247)

Are they paint-able in the same way that clothes are wear-able?

A useful technology (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922249)

Hopefully this will make our tanks, planes and kill-bots better by reducing the mass/volume required for energy storage, thus increasing the space available for bullets, nukes and sharp sticks.

The possibilities are endless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922267)

All those graffiti artists must be going nuts waiting for this to come out in spray cans.

Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (4, Funny)

drphil (320469) | about 7 years ago | (#19922279)


"Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers." ...
"The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) ..."

Whooboy! I wonder what that print cartridge is going to cost!

Re:Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (5, Funny)

ChromeAeonium (1026952) | about 7 years ago | (#19922425)

About twice as much as a printer with the cartridge.

Re:Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (2, Funny)

Adriax (746043) | about 7 years ago | (#19923891)

Though it'll still be cheaper than a color cartridge from HP.

Re:Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (1)

yiantsbro (550957) | about 7 years ago | (#19922493)

That depends...would you be buying it on E-Bay or from the manufacturer?

Re:Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 7 years ago | (#19923551)

"Whooboy! I wonder what that print cartridge is going to cost!"

Don't worry, a third-party will come up with a continuous-buckyball-ink system you can retrofit your solar panel printer with.

Re:Brinks truck pulls up to Staples ... (1)

toQDuj (806112) | about 7 years ago | (#19923931)

That's my thought exactly. Last I heard, buckyballs were one of the most expensive products on this here planet right now.

B.

I guess it paints dupes too (2, Informative)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | about 7 years ago | (#19922295)

I'm going to hold out on commenting (2, Funny)

Frogbert (589961) | about 7 years ago | (#19922327)

I'm going to hold out on commenting until Unicorn confirms that the story is legit and that he isn't going to post a retraction.

Re:I'm going to hold out on commenting (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922417)

The (robot) Unicorn is too busy autonomously attempting to walk on water.

Today's Snake Oil.... (2, Insightful)

GreyPoopon (411036) | about 7 years ago | (#19922361)

The team combined carbon nanotubes with tiny carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) to form snake-like structures. Add sunlight to excite the polymers, and the buckyballs will grab the electrons.

Does it seem to anyone else like carbon nanotubes are modern snake oil? Seriously, is there anything they CAN'T do?

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (4, Insightful)

jlarocco (851450) | about 7 years ago | (#19922385)

... Seriously, is there anything they CAN'T do?

Make their way into an actual product people can buy?

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (1)

DrMrLordX (559371) | about 7 years ago | (#19923171)

It looks like OCZ has plans to deliver an actual nanotube product [computerworld.com] . Anyone seen one of these for sale yet?

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (1)

SnoopJeDi (859765) | about 7 years ago | (#19922443)

Carbon's ability to form insane polymers and structural shapes makes it extremely versatile in chemistry. I never heard anybody proclaim steel girders as over-rated.

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (2, Funny)

SpaceballsTheUserNam (941138) | about 7 years ago | (#19922977)

Steel girders are overrated.

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (2, Funny)

SnowZero (92219) | about 7 years ago | (#19923471)

...and should be replaced with struts made of carbon nanotubes.

Good if you want to oil a snake (2, Interesting)

w.timmeh (906406) | about 7 years ago | (#19922489)

Carbon nanotubes are cited in the article as having excellent electron transport properties. In organic photovoltaic devices, charge separation and efficient electron (and hole) transport are desirable properties. Perhaps if the nanotubes do have these properties then the researchers should investigate them?

Re:Today's Snake Oil.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922955)

Carbon is the single most useful atom for organic systems. A new form of it is bound to have a wide variety of uses. You might as well say hey plants turning sunlight into sugar to feed on is just plain silly.

Someday? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922371)

Steorn, paintable solar panels, fucking concurrent c++ compilers, walking robots. It's bullshit - never does this come to market. Like the rest, it will evaporate and take the energy with it. A good time for these stories is when they're available for purchase. I can't believe I'm saying this, but, it would be more gratifying to see an *advertisement* for solar paint, than this.

"Someday, I hope to see this process become an inexpensive energy alternative for households around the world."

Someday indeed.

I for one.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922379)

I for one welcome our new inexpensive solar cells that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets overlords.

Re:I for one.. (1)

MrNaz (730548) | about 7 years ago | (#19923297)

In other news, the award for the most retarded attempt at invoking a meme has just been won.

Bummed out (1)

IlliniECE (970260) | about 7 years ago | (#19922391)

I'm feeling bummed out. I've been reading story after story of cool-sounding research that never seems to hit the market. Anyone wanna bet when I can go out to wal-mart and get something like this? I'm not holding my breath.

Nah... not yet. (4, Interesting)

plowboylifestyle (862919) | about 7 years ago | (#19922433)

The problem with the article is that it uses the words "have developed" as in "have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets" when in reality it sounds more like "have an idea for" or "have developed a concept for" pending the advancement of material science. I seems they haven't built or tested..I mean painted a prototype, so the article is getting ahead of itself a bit maybe.

Saved By the Sun documentary (1)

AHuxley (892839) | about 7 years ago | (#19922447)

Has some good new ideas on solar technologies, green architecture and info on paint like options in the USA. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/solar/ [pbs.org]

More blogodreck. See actual article. (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 7 years ago | (#19922473)

First, the article is the NJIT press release [njit.edu] , with essentially the same text and pictures.

Second, this is yet another of those overhyped "minor advance in materials science" articles. The abstract for the technical article says only "The results indicate that C60 decorated SWCNTs are promising additives for performance enhancement of polymer photovoltaic cells." There's no mention of "paintable solar cells".

"Paintable solar cells" have been talked up before (they were mentioned on Slashdot two years ago [slashdot.org] ) but nobody has actually made that work. There's this fantasy that you somehow spray something on your roof and get power out. But it's not likely to work.

Some guy at the University of Toronto has been hping this for several years now. [businessweek.com] He got quite a bit of press in 2005. But his actual cells were, according to Business Week, 3 orders of magnitude worse than existing technology, were more expensive to make, and had a limited lifetime.

I was much more impressed when I went to a talk by Mark Pinto, the VP of Applied Materials' solar unit. He spoke for an hour and a half, and never mentioned "eco" or "green". He's a manufacturing exec, and he sees this as a manufacturing cost problem. They know what to do; they just need to do it bigger, faster, and cheaper. Which is what Applied Materials does, very successfully, for ICs and flat panel displays. He has charts showing that in high-sun areas like southern Spain, solar power can now be cheaper than existing electricity sources. So they're building a big solar panel plant there. As the materials improve, they'll convert to new materials and processes, just like they do for ICs. And as with ICs and flat panel displays, they expect to follow the cost curve down.

Their existing generation of solar panel fab is derived from their flat panel display fab equipment, but they expect that, over time, those technologies will diverge. They'd like a roll-to-roll solar cell process, and bought a company with one that sort of works, but if it doesn't, they think they can do OK with something that works like a huge wafer fab, with each wafer covering five square meters.

Re:More blogodreck. See actual article. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922563)

Indeed seems to be a minor advance type paper. The efficiency reported is just 0.6%! Which is in fact lower than the 5% odd achieved by some other organic photovoltaics.

Re:More blogodreck. See actual article. (1)

Chuck Chunder (21021) | about 7 years ago | (#19922971)

It seems the we make advances in ways to use energy and get those advances to market much faster that we do for ways of producing energy. I guess it may simply be that energy using products is where the money is and while energy production from non-renewable sources remains cheap there will be little commercial incentive to try and produce something that will compete with them.

Re:More blogodreck. See actual article. (1)

westlake (615356) | about 7 years ago | (#19923251)

There's no mention of "paintable solar cells".

Painting does not appeal. It suggests a short-lived, labor-intensive, installation.

Enough energy? (5, Interesting)

nebaz (453974) | about 7 years ago | (#19922475)

One thing I've always been curious about (and it may seem obvious, though I don't know), is whether or not we could subsist off solar energy, if we could use it efficiently. Answer: oh yeah! (easily)

From wikipedia [wikipedia.org]

4.26×10^20 J, the yearly energy consumption of the world as of 2001

5.5×10^ 24 J, the total energy from the Sun that strikes the face of the Earth each year

We only use about 1/10000 of the total solar energy (as of 2001).

Re:Enough energy? (4, Insightful)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 7 years ago | (#19922537)

You mean 1/10000 is used for human power, right? Nearly all the power is used to keep the earth at its current temperature, else it would drift towards zero (okay, 2.7, but who's counting). Also, much of the useful energy is used to convert CO2 to O2, and in the process store C in H in various forms for powering the metabolisms of the earth's inhabitants. Luckily, those are overlapping purposes, as is solar collection for discretionary energy use by humans.

We already subsist off of solar energy, for the most part - it's just our source happens to be stored a long time ago. Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy. It's not so much the energy, it's the ability to store it in usable forms.

Re:Enough energy? (3, Interesting)

PapayaSF (721268) | about 7 years ago | (#19923099)

Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy.

Everything else you say is true, but to nitpick: isn't nuclear power another form of "stored" solar energy? Those heavy elements were originally formed in stars that blew up. Nuclear power is solar energy from dead suns!

Cool to think about, and a point to confound anti-nuclear power types....

Re:Enough energy? (1)

fractoid (1076465) | about 7 years ago | (#19923863)

True, but meaningless except in the "big picture" sense that Calvin usually uses to get out of homework. All forms of energy are 'stored', having been created, best as we can tell, at the creation of the universe by agents or mechanisms unknown.

Re:Enough energy? (2, Interesting)

Danny Rathjens (8471) | about 7 years ago | (#19923835)

Nuclear is about the only source (okay, geothermal, too) that isn't a form of solar energy

Tidal power, too. :) It comes from the rotational energy of earth and orbit of the moon.
Actually, solar energy *is* nuclear since stars are big fusion reactors. :)

Technology changes consumption patterns (4, Interesting)

evought (709897) | about 7 years ago | (#19922769)

Electric lighting is much more efficient in terms of lumens per BTU than a candle or kerosene lamp, so one would think that people who get electricity and electric lighting to replace their candles and lamps reduce their energy usage. In fact, what happens is that their usage goes up by an order of magnitude. When folks in third world countries use candles and oil lamps, they maximize their use of sunlight, only use light sources when necessary and often for task lighting, take advantage of full moons, and watch consumption closely. With electricity, they use bright area lights for task work, leave lights on in adjacent (or even unoccupied) rooms, and other things unimaginable to them just months before.

The reverse case, living on a battery bank and solar panel, follows a similar pattern. When living on battery, tracking your power levels becomes second nature. You become much more aware of what you are using and start to make trade-offs in your mind: do I really want to watch that movie and draw down the battery bank when I could just as easily read a book (or go to bed at dark and get up earlier, or actually talk to my wife, or...) It is not a matter of suffering or 'making do', but just finding you don't need as much as you thought you did. In the summer when the battery banks are overflowing, you splurge, like running the ice cream maker.

Having gone back and forth between these worlds a few times, I am very aware of the power I expend. Right now, my wife and I have one light bulb (a CFL) on in the entire house. There have been times and places that even burning a single light this long after dark would have been unusual.

So, yes, solar panels can provide enough power to run your life, particularly if you make the logical adjustments to living with a variable and finite source of power. We get so used to flipping a switch and not thinking about where the power comes from, that we expect the exact same out of renewable power sources. It also means that we are horrible at dealing with emergencies or changes of fortune. But we don't have to live that way.

Re:Technology changes consumption patterns (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19923117)

The dismal science came up with Jeavon's paradox in the 19th century as much the same observation: improve the efficiency and the demand increases more.

What's more (1)

mdsolar (1045926) | about 7 years ago | (#19923129)

What's more, much of the energy we consume is wasted because we use heat engines to convert it to more useful forms. So, using photovoltaics, we skip that step http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/04/green-numbers. html [blogspot.com] so things actually look even better than your calculation suggests.
--
Register your home for solar: http://mdsolar.blogspot.com/2007/01/slashdot-users -selling-solar.html [blogspot.com]

Re:Enough energy? (1)

ceoyoyo (59147) | about 7 years ago | (#19923535)

Don't forget to take the average calorie consumption, convert to proper units and multiply by the world population. Throw in some animals and plants for good measure too.

Interesting... even with 100% efficient solar cells we might NOT be able to provide our energy needs with the amount of sunlight that falls on our planet. I wouldn't have thought.

Something's missing (1)

paleo2002 (1079697) | about 7 years ago | (#19922497)

So, once you paint your house or car with these nanotube-based organic solar cells, how do you get the electrons they produce into your car's electric motor or your home's appliances? In order to use the energy produced by paint-on solar cells, you need a surface that will conduct the electricity to a battery, motor, or conventional wiring. Your house, for example, would have to be paneled with circuit boards or some sort of wire mesh and then painted with the solar cells.

Very promising. (2, Interesting)

jshriverWVU (810740) | about 7 years ago | (#19922511)

Glad to see photovoltaics doing well, while this is a welcome advancement. I'd personally love to see more juice per square CM of solar cells. So instead of painting my house with cells just to power my TV, I'd rather have a dense 1 foot square solar cell powerful enough to power my TV and computer.

Re:Very promising. (3, Informative)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#19922871)

unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficency

Re:Very promising. (2, Insightful)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | about 7 years ago | (#19923777)

I'd rather have a dense 1 foot square solar cell powerful enough to power my TV and computer.
unfortunately, 1 square foot of sunlight contains no where near that kind of energy even at 100% efficiency
That's easy - just make the TV and computer more efficient. The market is already going down that path.

Re:Very promising. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 7 years ago | (#19923075)

cheap and sloppy is a far better way to go with solar energy collection. if you can lower costs enough to put crappy collector everywhere you can squeeze more light out of the day than an expensive collector will get due to angles and shadows. a good collector on the roof will be weak during morning or evening, and totally useless during the other. a coat of paint on the house and roof will get fairly decent angles all day and would be less likely to have a noticable loss of output if a leaf pod falls on it or a bird squeezes one out onto it.

"Someday" again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922585)

Inexpensive photovoltaics should be renamed "Someday Technology", since every article written about solar seems to use the word "someday" in it somewhere.

QUIT FUCKING TEASING ME! (1, Flamebait)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about 7 years ago | (#19922587)

I'm sick of seeing another "cheap solar cells!" article with no substance. The editors should stop approving these types of stories until they get an article that includes purchasing information.

Re:QUIT FUCKING TEASING ME! (3, Funny)

SkyFalling (1115231) | about 7 years ago | (#19922855)

When they do, please make sure to post and complain about the Slashvertisement.

Re:QUIT FUCKING TEASING ME! (2)

Stoutlimb (143245) | about 7 years ago | (#19923713)

Ok that was excellent... You turned my crabby day upside down. Thanks man.

Magical Inkjet Printers (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19922753)

According to all of these technological innovations I've been reading about for the past few years I should be printing blow-up dolls, replacement organs, a hot cup of coffee, and now solar cells... all from my home printer.

Sheesh!

Cheap? (1)

reverseengineer (580922) | about 7 years ago | (#19922771)

First off, organic photovoltaics based on polythiophene have been around for a few years now; it's a very promising technology, but for now the energy conversions seen are around 5% at best. That of course may be suitable if these things can be made cheaply enough to be installed everywhere.

This discovery builds on experiments using fullerenes and their derivatives as electron acceptors for organic semiconductors like polythiophene, and the use of a carbon nanotube a a molecular wire to cart away electrons may indeed represent significant improvement over the acceptors currently in use- not likely enough to bring it in range of good silicon photovoltaics, but since I can't read the full text of that article, I can't say for sure. The problem I see with this particular new idea is that in comparison to the organic photovolts out there now, it more than likely would strike a poor balance between increased performance and increased price- high purity single walled nanotubes are still in the hundreds of dollars per gram range, after all.

missing output info? (0, Flamebait)

timmarhy (659436) | about 7 years ago | (#19922853)

yeah right.... i bet if i paint my whole house in this i can power 1 light.

i don't know how.. but some how greenie assholes will find a way to blame this failure on bush and the oil companys.

Specs? (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#19922917)

What are the specs for this material? How many W per m^2 can the paint generate under the 1KW:m^2 of "solar noon"? How many joules does it take to manufacture the coatings, how many joules to apply them from, say, a big "inkjet" printer? How long do they last?

Therefore, what is the total energy budget of this material?

If they have to be replaced frequently, produce low wattage, and cost a lot of energy to produce and deploy, then silicon PV cells that last 35+ years at 15-25% efficiency might still be better, even though the silicon cells cost a lot of energy to produce, deploy, maintain and recycle. Or maybe this tech is better.

I wish every journalist covering the accelerating solar power industry would always answer those basic questions. Otherwise, it's just science fiction dressed up as propaganda.

Here is the paper, with efficiency data (2, Informative)

Morgaine (4316) | about 7 years ago | (#19923007)

The paper referred to in the headline article and journal abstract is available here on the researchers' site [rutgers.edu] .

The paper answers some of the questions that others have posed in this thread, particularly about the efficiency of the process achieved so far (0.57%). These are their conclusions:

Conclusions

In conclusion, we have successfully fabricated polymer photovoltaic
devices based on C60-modified SWCNTs and a conjugated
polymer P3HT. The composites were made by first
microwave irradiating a mixture of SWCNT-water solution and
C60 solution in toluene, followed by adding a conjugated polymer
P3HT. The best power conversion efficiency of 0.57% under
simulated solar irradiation (95 mW cm22) was achieved on a cell
annealed at 120 uC for 10 min. Introduction of SWCNTs into the
composite not only enhanced the short circuit current density,
JSC, because of faster electron transport via the network of
SWCNTs, but also improved the fill factor due to the morphology
change. The net effect was improved power conversion
efficiency as compared to cells without SWCNTs. Further
optimization is necessary to further improve the performance.
These results clearly indicate that the polymer : C60-SWCNT
composite is an excellent candidate for the fabrication of low cost
polymer photovoltaic cells, because C60 is significantly less
expensive than PCBM, and only a small amount of the more
expensive SWCNT is needed in the photoactive composite.

It's clearly at a very early stage of research/development, but polymer photovoltaic cells have such enormous potential that it's an extremely valuable direction to pursue.

Printers of the future can do everything! (4, Funny)

dan_barrett (259964) | about 7 years ago | (#19923073)

While this sounds cool, this seems to be yet another technology that we'll eventually be able to print with our inexpensive inkjet printers.

hopefully they'll release the "nanotube buckyball solar panel" cartridge to fit in the same printer as the OLED display cartridge... etc.

Can't wait to read some word documents written using solar panel nanotube ink, too.

Cost of printer cartridge??? (1)

Circlotron (764156) | about 7 years ago | (#19923111)

"Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers." The printers themselves may be inexpensive but you can bet your last dollar the printer cartridge cost will need a NASA style budget!

Go Highlanders! (2, Interesting)

ynososiduts (1064782) | about 7 years ago | (#19923145)

Woo! For some reason when developments like this come out of a school you attend, a wave of pride just comes over you. They actually have an impressive solar array on top of the Student Center with a little terminal that reads out the power production. It's pretty nifty. I believe it's the biggest array in New Jersey. I'm glad they are making progress. Now all they need to do is develop a way for girls to attend the school.

Re:Go Highlanders! (1)

martin_henry (1032656) | about 7 years ago | (#19923877)

Stop making headlines for engineering feats? :P

Nope. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#19924277)

"Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers."

No, they won't. As there's no real money to be made from free energy in this sense compared to the real energy industry, this discovery won't hit the store shelves. Ever. Just like anything else that benefits us as humans rather than our wallets. It's plain business to fight anything that can drop your revenue, and free energy in this sense is an enemy to the energy industry in the same sense that a true hydrogen car is an enemy to the oil industry.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...