Next time an apprentice builder gets sent to buy some left-handed screwdrivers, stripy paint or a long weight from a hardware store they may one day have another unusual item on their list.
This is because a group of researchers are attempting to do away with bulky photovoltaic solar panels by developing solar cells that can be painted directly onto the outside of a house.
The team at the University of Notre Dame has, it says, succeeded in making prototype versions of ‘solar paint’ in an attempt to move beyond conventional silicon based solar methods.
This involves using quantum dot nanoparticles, consisting of titanium dioxide and cadmium sulfide or selenide, mixed with a water and alcohol concoction. While it might not sound very appetising as far as Christmas cocktails go, the resultant semiconducting paste can be cheaply and effectively slapped on the front of a house.
The researchers believe that the paint can be produced inexpensively and in large quantities, but it does seem that they are a while away from making it a commercially viable product. Conversion efficiency rates are at a measly one percent, a long way off the efficiency rates over 10 percent that are seen in conventional panels.
Of course, small efficiency cells can still have applications, with developments in cheaper thin film solar cells potentially offering larger areas of coverage to gain sunlight in countries with less space restrictions, for example. The team is now working to push the efficiency levels of the compound higher.
Perhaps the team should spend a little more time on the name of the ingenious new paint, which has so far been left with the truly atrocious ‘Sun-Believable’.
The way the market for solar panels in the UK is going at the moment such wacky ideas as solar paint couldn’t hurt.
Following cuts to solar Feed-In-Tariffs MPs have voiced their anger at bungling ministerial handling of the subsidy programme.
A joint committee of MPs slammed the cutting of subsidies which have left the industry in the UK in disarray. Tim Yeo, chairman of the Energy and Climate Change Committee, claimed on BBC Radio 4 that while he agreed with the need to cut subsidies the government ‘botched’ a consultation into solar reform.
“The root of the problem was the failure to notice that the subsidies for solar panels were so generous that far too many people were taking advantage of them, and that should have been spotted last summer,” Yeo said.
“They were set a very high level it is not a bad idea to get an industry going but clearly you cant sustain that indefinitely. They botched the consultation process for the proposed cut by making the cut effectiveon a date before the end of the consultation”
When the cuts were announced they were slammed by industry experts, with Ash Sharma at IMS Research condemning the “kneejerk” reaction which could bankrupt businesses which invested in the UK solar industry.