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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: Where can I buy one?
By Hoser McMoose on 7/26/2007 12:45:21 PM , Rating: 3
That large solar power plant in Portugal is 11MW. Typically solar power gets you a capacity factor of about 20-25%, so really it's producing an average of 2.2 to 2.75MW of power on average. For comparison, a fairly normal coal or nuclear power plant will be in the 1500 to 3000MW range and they usually achieve 80-90% capacity factors. Within 150 miles of me (as the crow flies) there is a 3920MW coal plant (Nanticoke), a 1975MW coal plant (Lambton), a 3100MW nuclear plant (Pickering), a 3524MW nuclear plant (Darlington) and a 4700MW nuclear plant (Bruce). This sort of thing is not abnormal for densely populated areas in North America and Europe (FWIW I'm in southwestern Ontario, Canada).

Long story short, from a real perspective this solar power plant is TINY from an electricity generating perspective. It contributes about 0.05% of Portugal's electricity consumption (total electricity use is about 45TWh per year) In total all the solar, wind, wave and biomass make up somewhere around 5-6% of Portugal's electricity mix. Hydro power makes up about 35% and fossil fuels the remaining 60% or so.

Better then some countries (including both the US and Canada) but certainly not leading the world. Denmark and Germany both produce a higher percentage of their electricity from wind alone.

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