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Somenath Mitra, PhD, is among a group of NJIT researchers working to develop an inexpensive, easy process to produce solar panels.  (Source: New Jersey Institute of Technology)
Scientists say the plastic panels could be cranked out at home with an inkjet printer

Researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) claim to have developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets.

In a release prepared by the University, researcher Somenath Mitra, PhD, stated, "Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations."  Mitra is a professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and Environmental Sciences.

Purified silicon, the same core material used for fabricating computer chips, is required for making conventional photovoltaic cells, which convert sunlight into electricity. The material is costly, difficult to handle and manufacture, and as a result, it is also subject to shortages. The NJIT research is focused on replacing purified silicon organic solar cells based on polymers.

Not only would such materials be vastly cheaper than silicon-based PV cells, they would also be significantly easier to use in a variety of ways. "Imagine someday driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless," Mitra said.

The solar cell developed at NJIT uses a carbon nanotubes complex, combined with carbon "Buckyballs," or fullerenes. Together, these nanomaterials form snake-like structures using Buckyballs to trap electrons generated by polymers exposed to sunlight. Nanotubes are used to conduct the electrons, creating a flowing current.

Details of the process were described in the article "Fullerene single wall carbon nanotube complex for polymer bulk heterojunction photovoltaic cells," recently published in the Journal of Materials Chemistry by the Royal Society of Chemistry.



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Sounds good to me...
By blaster5k on 7/25/2007 1:54:55 PM , Rating: 2
I'm glad people are continuing to do research with solar cells. It's rarely a bad thing to test out different ideas. Current solar technology isn't particularly environmentally friendly when you consider what goes into manufacture and maintenance (not to mention land usage in some cases), but maybe the future holds some promise still... just might take a while.




RE: Sounds good to me...
By omnicronx on 7/25/2007 2:14:01 PM , Rating: 2
BOOOOO! you know what is environmentally friendly that we already have and is cheap to produce? NUCLEAR POWER!
dump the waste in a hole and lets be done with it. Other than that, clean and safe... yet the states has not built a new since what 1975?


RE: Sounds good to me...
By FITCamaro on 7/25/2007 2:35:08 PM , Rating: 2
Shhh.....don't tell them.

Also don't tell them that with fuel reprocessing a lot of the waste can be reused for more fuel.

Nuclear power is evil and always will be. So keep it quiet.

In defense of the article though, we're never going to be able to print out nuclear reactors on pieces of paper.

quote:
Imagine someday driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine.


Unless the efficiency was extremely high, coating your entire car in solar cells wouldn't produce enough power to drive the engine.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By masher2 (blog) on 7/25/2007 3:16:11 PM , Rating: 2
> "In defense of the article though, we're never going to be able to print out nuclear reactors on pieces of paper"

Never say never in quantum physics. Other than some guff about the columb barrier, there's no theoretical reason we couldn't one day create catalyzed, low-energy nuclear reactions upon sheets of paper.

> "Unless the efficiency was extremely high, coating your entire car in solar cells wouldn't produce enough power to drive the engine."

Very true. And the problem with these polymer-based cells is typically that, while they're cheaper, they tend to be much less efficient than other forms.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By ZmaxDP on 7/25/2007 7:46:43 PM , Rating: 2
Very true! (the second part, I can't speak for paper reactors one way or the other...) Solar power is better suited to situations where energy storage is less of an issue - i.e. hooked up to the power grid. You'd have to have extremely efficient cells for a solar car to be realistic given current usage models, and you'd have to have significant storage capacity on board for those not to sunny occasions. However, if you're already driving an electric plug in or hybrid vehicle, it would be pretty dumb not to use solar cells on the vehicle to help recharge the batteries when there is sun out. Plus, if you run out of "gas" in the middle of nowhere, you just have to wait a few hours and then off you go again...


RE: Sounds good to me...
By masher2 (blog) on 7/25/2007 9:25:55 PM , Rating: 3
> "if you're already driving an electric plug in or hybrid vehicle, it would be pretty dumb not to use solar cells on the vehicle..."

Unless you assume some pretty hefty breakthroughs in solar technology, the energy generated would never offset the weight and drag of the panels themselves, much less show a net gain.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By ZmaxDP on 7/27/2007 12:04:20 AM , Rating: 2
Oh come on, I'm not talking about buying a 4 by 10 mono-crystalline panel and placing it at a proper solar angle on my roof!

Flexible solar panels are lightweight, can adhere to the shape of your vehicle, and if they were an integrated part of the vehicle design I'm sure you could manage to get the drag difference down to practically 0. They even have prototype panels now that have circular collector cells so the angle of incidence matters very little until you surpass the angle at which the containment material reflects rather than transmits the light.

These kind of panels are more than capable of powering cell phones, iPods, and even portable computers without a large footprint. You could easily power a modern laptop with the collected energy off of the roof of a Prius even with rather old solar technology. You don't even need an inverter since it's all DC.

You could get enough of a charge in a couple of hours of the whole car surface to make it those last few miles. (Unless you're inside running the AC off it)


RE: Sounds good to me...
By omnicronx on 7/25/2007 4:16:22 PM , Rating: 2
good points, I LIKE THE CUT OF YOUR JIB SON!


RE: Sounds good to me...
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 5:34:19 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Unless the efficiency was extremely high, coating your entire car in solar cells wouldn't produce enough power to drive the engine.

Actually, you're right. Even if you assume 100% efficiency, it's not enough power.

100 HP = 75kW
75kW / 300W/m² = 250m²

250m² would be a big car! You'd need more than 100HP to move it!


RE: Sounds good to me...
By roastmules on 7/26/2007 4:58:40 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
100 HP = 75kW
75kW / 300W/m² = 250m²
250m² would be a big car! You'd need more than 100HP to move it!

You don't need quite that much energy... You only need about 25kW average for driving, if you can store up and expend energy in a larger amount, via a battery.
Actually, if you assume 25kW for a 1/2 Hr daily drive, you need about 10kW-Hr. Let's say you have about 4m²on your car. In 12 hours(driving/parked), you generate 1/2 kW/m², then you get:
4 x 1/2 x 12hr = 24 kW-Hr. -- Enough for your daily drive, if it's short, and you live in a sunny area. Otherwise, you can still have an engine for longer drives and in the winter...
And, at the current cost of about $.35 per KW when a gasoline engine is used, it's very useful.

Plug in hybrids really do make both ecological and economical sense. But, we'll need more power plants, and powered parking areas.

Here's another scenario where solar is huge: Think about the TV show, Jericho. Wouldn't it be nice if a few or all of the homes had solar panels? They'd have a lot more power than they have now.

And, Solar is great for regular emergencies. Do you live in an area with bad storms, or anything else that disrupts the supply of power? Here in VA, they want to install a new multi-hundred mile long high voltage line. If there were a lot more people and business with solar/wind power, then we wouldn't need this power line.

(math may be a little off, technology may be a little off, but in general, there is an eclogical and ecomical benefit of solar vs. gasoline.) Solar vs. a large coal plant isn't very cost effective.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By fic2 on 7/25/2007 4:22:51 PM , Rating: 3
I am still holding out for my Mr. Fusion.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By blaster5k on 7/25/2007 5:53:27 PM , Rating: 3
Nuclear is probably the most environmentally friendly power source there is right now when you consider the effects of land usage. Being able to produce a lot of energy in a small amount of space is key. Otherwise, you're going to ruin the environment in other ways.

Nevertheless, research in other areas of power generation is still important. You never know what kind of breakthroughs might be possible.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By Silver2k7 on 7/25/2007 6:37:26 PM , Rating: 2
Hey wasn't there something about cooling the nuclear waste and it would become harmless in a few years time.. i think it was 2-3 years iirc.


RE: Sounds good to me...
By Fritzr on 7/26/2007 3:35:31 AM , Rating: 2
I think it was the Breeder Reactor design that burns the "waste" from other reactor designs. The reactor is feasible, the holdup on this design is the reprocessing of spent fuel to extract the small amount of usable fuel leftover.

Instead of 1000s of years of secure storage, the waste would be "safe" after a century or two. Politically this one is a very difficult sell since it destroys weapon grade nuclear waste :P

"Depleted" uranium is considered low level waste. It can be used to fuel a Breeder Reactor. Properly designed a Breeder Reactor produces mixed Plutonium which cannot be used for weapons, but which can fuel a reactor.

Currently Plutonium fuel is banned in the US due to the use of pure Pu239 being usable for bombs. Of course pure U235 is also a weapons grade material, but is not banned as a nuclear fuel. U235 can be extracted relatively easily from nuclear waste, Pu239 cannot be easily extracted from waste containing multiple isotopes. Have to wonder if this difference is the real reason for the ban on the fuel that cannot be used for weapons :P


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