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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 ZmaxDP on 7/26/2007 11:54:47 PM , Rating: 2
Solar power costing 3 to 5 times what other enery sources cost is now an outdated figure. Use current tech when creating these rules of thumb at least. It is no different than saying Intel cpus are still more power hungry than AMD because you've compared P4s to A64s and who cares if there is something called C2D? Given, Solar isn't less expensive now either...

Once again though, you're taking the direct costs of fossil fuels and comparing them with the direct and latent costs of solar panels and calling it "fair." Try including the latent costs of fossil fuels in the equation for a change. Or even nuclear for that matter. How about all the costs of litigation that come with attempting to build a fossil fuel plant in a developed area, or the costs in terms of property devaluation within sight of such a plant? I can keep going...

Don't get me wrong, all in all I agree with you. No magic bullets, solar isn't the solution to everyone's or even most people's energy problems. But for some cases it works extremly well, and it is getting better all the time.


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