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.
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
is a professor and acting chair of NJIT's Department of Chemistry and
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.