Researchers at The University of Alberta and the National Research Council’s National Institute (NINT) for Nanotechnology have just announced a solar energy breakthrough. The team comprising of many disciplines, has developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. This has generated much excitement because of the high cost and shortage of the ultra-high purity silicon and other materials normally required to produce solar panels.
The solar cells are made up of layers of different materials, each with a specific function called a sandwich structure. Jillian Burial, a professor of chemistry at the U of A, NINT principal investigator and member of the research team, uses a simple analogy to describe the approach:
‘Consider a clubhouse sandwich, with many different layers. One layer absorbs the light, another helps to generate the electricity, and others help to draw the electricity out of the device. Normally, the layers don’t stick well, and so the electricity ends up stuck and never gets out, leading to inefficient devices. We are working on the mayonnaise, mustard, the butter and other ‘special sauces’ that bring the sandwich together, and make each of the layers work together. That makes a better sandwich, and makes a better solar cell, in our case”.
The researchers believe that someday home owners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells using inexpensive home based ink-jet printers. This will allow consumers to create their own power stations on walls and roofs and generate their own energy gathering the sun’s rays.
For more information contact:
Brian Murphy – Media Associate
or Shannon Jones – Communications NRC NINT