Solar energy generation and use is on its way for a quick boost with a quick and cheap spray-on solar cell process. A research team headed by Illan Kramer at the University of Toronto has come up with a new process that has made spray-on solar cells viable.
The idea and process of spray-on cells has existed for a while, though the results yielded were not very encouraging in terms of efficiency and cost. This new method, which the researchers call sprayLD, has both those fronts covered. The photovoltaic material in sprayLD are tiny dots Called colloidal quantum dots (CQD), which are invisible to the naked eye.
While the process itself has been implemented with fairly encouraging results, the efficiency continues to be a small troubling factor. CQD powered spray-on has an efficiency of 8.1%, which is remarkably low than the 15-20% that a conventional solar panel may offer. As a shortcoming, this may be overlooked by the potential benefits of sprayLD, which can easily be compatible with devices as tiny as smartphones, and as sensitive as airplane wings. If it’s a surface that can see the sun, sprayLD is good to go.
Researchers managed to drive down costs and increase efficiency by employing a technique similar to the newspaper printing process. A nozzle sprays the CQD directly onto the surface, much like ink would be added to paper in printing.
Even the prototype device has a fairly inexpensive construction. In their efforts to keep costs low, the research team made use of affordable and easily available parts. For example, the spray nozzle used in the prototype is the nozzle used in steel mills to cool steel with a fine mist of water.
Spray-on solar cells seem like an amazing idea. However, that does not mean that they would be available in traditional spray cans all set for solar graffiti, it would be a bulky setup. As Kramer says, “one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof.”