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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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RE: Sounds good to me...
By TomZ on 7/25/2007 5:34:19 PM , Rating: 2
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
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.

"You can bet that Sony built a long-term business plan about being successful in Japan and that business plan is crumbling." -- Peter Moore, 24 hours before his Microsoft resignation

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