Print 21 comment(s) - last by Mint.. on Nov 8 at 5:41 AM

Thin, transparent material makes a film capable of absorbing light and generating electricity

The U.S. Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory and Brookhaven National Laboratory researchers have created transparent films that can absorb light and generate electricity over large areas, which could be used to design transparent solar panels. 

Mircea Cotlet, leader of the study and a physical chemist at Brookhaven's Center for Functional Nanomaterials (CFN), and Hsing-Lin Wang, co-author of the study and a researcher in the Chemistry Division at Los Alamos, have fabricated these new thin, transparent films in an effort to improve the use of solar panels. 

These new transparent films are semiconducting polymers "spiked" with fullerenes, which are round, cage-like molecules that consist of 60 carbon atoms. Researchers created a a flow of water droplets across a layer of polymer-fullerene solution. When the water evaporated, the materials then self-assembled into micron-sized hexagonal-shaped cells. The film ends up looking like a honeycomb, and researchers were able to develop reproducible films that spanned several square millimeters of area. 

"Though such honeycomb-patterned thin films have previously been made using conventional polymers like polystyrene, this is the first report of such a material that blends semiconductors and fullerenes to absorb light and efficiently generate charge and charge separation," said Cotlet. 

The films are transparent because the edges of the hexagons contain polymer chains that are packed together tightly while the center of these hexagons have thin and loosely packed polymer chains. The closely packed edges are capable of absorbing light and generating electricity. 

"Potentially, with future refinement of this technology, windows in a home or office could generate solar power," said Wang. 

Researchers hope to use these transparent films to create brand-new types of optical displays, energy-generating solar panels for windows and other large-scale applications. 

"Imagine a house made with windows made of this kind of material, which, combined with a solar roof, would cut its electricity costs significantly," said Cotlet. "This is pretty exciting."

This study was published in Chemistry of Materials on November 1.

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RE: Another big meh
By HotPlasma on 11/4/2010 2:25:54 PM , Rating: 5
Think about it in another way. Everyday you see an article about real progress being made in solar technology. With every bit of technological advancement that you read about, we are one step closer to having free, clean and abundant power.

RE: Another big meh
By quiksilvr on 11/4/2010 3:55:27 PM , Rating: 5
Another way to think about it is the market solar power is for: Middle-class american homes with two parents and some kids. They have a 30 year mortgage and aren't going anywhere.

Right now, you can invest $30,000 on a solar panel set up and receive the money back you paid for it within 10 years. Sounds like a long time, but in the grand scheme of things, $3000 a year ($250 a month) isn't bad for replacing your electricity costs.

Location is another factor. Living in the South, Southwest or West Coast is probably ideal for solar power homes.

So, in short, it isn't for everyone, but that doesn't mean it's for no one.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/4/2010 11:41:23 PM , Rating: 1
Yes with government subsidies.

Why should I pay for YOUR solar panels though? If it's so great, let it compete on its own two feet.

The only thing holding nuclear back is the EPA and hippies who think its dangerous. It doesn't need government guaranteed loans but for the fact that the government is in the way of building the plants so no one wants to put up the capitol without guarantees first.

RE: Another big meh
By wushuktl on 11/5/2010 7:34:01 AM , Rating: 2
So that people can actually start buying it and there can be more research and development in getting the prices down so even more consumers can afford it. That's why. Otherwise there are too many people like yourself who would never make the investment until all the R&D is already done but then it would never happen. Kind of chicken and egg scenario there. That's why.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/5/2010 12:59:21 PM , Rating: 1
Hi I've got a proposal to build a warp drive. I'll sell you a picture of one for now and the government can give you money so you can afford my picture. Eventually I'll have a working one but who knows how long it'll take.

This is what your argument is to me.

RE: Another big meh
By quiksilvr on 11/5/2010 3:54:12 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Another big meh
By Mint on 11/8/2010 5:35:09 AM , Rating: 2
There is a hidden subsidy of solar, wind, and other unpredictable generation technologies.

If you put up solar panels to save on electricity, then your kWh usage goes down, but the peak usage of a community does not, because you can't rely on it. We'll still demand companies to provide the same capacity, but we'll pay for fewer average kWh.

Those companies can only reduce fuel costs. Construction amortization, operation, maintenance, distribution, etc will all be costs that are spread among fewer kWh, so prices will go up.

RE: Another big meh
By FITCamaro on 11/4/2010 11:38:28 PM , Rating: 2
Kind of like health care right?

We have clean, abundant power in nuclear. Like solar, it isn't free though. But its a hell of a lot cheaper than solar and its here now.

RE: Another big meh
By Mint on 11/8/2010 5:41:51 AM , Rating: 2
The sad thing is that if environuts had their head screwed on right, we'd all be on the same page here. Nuclear is the solution to GHG, air pollution, fuel supply, long term cost reduction, technology leadership, etc.

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