What would we do without nanotechnology and its potential for great things? Allowing us to scale down products to teeny objects, this revolutionary technology is all set to pave the way for liquid solar cells that can literally be printed onto surfaces. Researchers at USC are the brains behind this technology that use nanocrystals to develop cheap and stable solar cells that can either be printed on clear surfaces or made to exist as liquid ink.
The solar nanocrystals are minute, measuring just 4 nanometers in size. That’s like fitting over 250,000,000,000 of them onto the head of a pin. These tiny wonders can be made to float on a liquid solution enabling them to be painted on surfaces.
The surface coating is made of cadmium selenide, a semiconductor. To address the problem of low efficiency of liquid nanocrystal solar cells, the scientists discovered a synthetic ligand, which stabilizes and bridges nanocrystals and helps transmit electricity. With a low temperature process, it’s possible that the solar cells can even be printed onto plastic besides glass. This means that there may soon be flexible solar panels that can be molded and shaped to fit virtually any surface.
The researchers are also looking to use materials other than cadmium to build the solar cells as the element is limited in commercial applications owing to toxicity. According to Richard L. Bruchley, it will take several years before the technology is applied for commercial use, but the successful development of the liquid solar cells is evident of the fact that solar cell technology is entering a revolutionary phase.
Earlier, organic ligand molecules were used to stabilize nanocrystals and prevent them from sticking to each other. The result was insulated crystals that performed badly when conducting electricity. The researchers’ technology, on the other hand, increases efficiency and brings down the cost of printable liquid solar cells.