Energy-producing 'solar paint' invented

Dec. 21, 2011 at 6:17 PM   |   Comments

SOUTH BEND, Ind., Dec. 21 (UPI) -- U.S. scientists say they've made a major advance in renewable energy technology with an inexpensive "solar paint" that can produce energy.

A team at Notre Dame University says the paint may someday be applied to homes to generate electricity from light to power the appliances and equipment on the inside.

The paint, dubbed Sun-Believable, uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy from sunlight, a university release said Wednesday.

"We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology," chemistry Professor Prashant Kamat of the university's Center for Nano Science and Technology said.

"By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we've made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment."

When the paint is brushed onto a transparent conducting material and exposed to light it creates electricity, the researchers said.

"The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we've reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells," Kamat said.

"But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future."

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