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Power to burn from revolutionary "spray-on" solar cell technology

posted 3 Sept 2010, 10:51 by Mpelembe

Scientists from Leicester University in the United Kingdom and industrialists from Norway have teamed up to develop a unique thin film solar cell technology with the potential to turn windows and practically any other hard flat surfaces into efficient power generators

With the potential of being able to be sprayed onto any hard flat surface, a thin film solar cell being developed by nanoscientists from the University of Leicester and industrialists from Norway, is being hailed as a new way of harnessing green energy.

Norwegian company, EnSol AS, has patented the thin film solar cell technology, which they are hoping to develop commercially by 2016.

The thin electricity-producing coating can be sprayed onto most surfaces, allowing almost anything to be turned into a power generating device.

This new type of solar cell material can be coated as a thin film on building windows, roof tiles, and even aircraft wings, to generate power on a large scale.

Leicester University physicists, experts in the production of metal nanoparticles which are the active components in the new solar material, say they can now produce the entire solar cell.

"This prototype material is the basic photo voltaic material so you can point it at light and it produces electricity," Professor of Nanotechnology at the University of Leicester, Chris Binns, said.

The nanoparticles, much smaller than the size of a human hair, are incredibly thin, very absorbent, and are embedded in a transparent composite matrix.

Ensol Technical Manager, Phil Denby, says they still have a lot of work ahead of them to reach a comparable efficiency with traditional solar cells but is confident of eventual success.

"We are arriving at 20 percent efficiency which seems fairly viable but actually because we are not as reliant on the traditional semi conductor technology our efficiency limit, our theoretical limit, is much higher than this older technology, so in that respect who knows where we will be in 20 years time," Denby said.

The Leicester University scientists say that the United Kingdom produces on average, including dull days, 500 watts per surface metre, which using the thin film solar cell technology, even with an efficiency of 20 percent, would produce power to burn.