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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 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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