New nano-dots could mean cheap, paint-on solar cells

They're too tiny to see, but a new form of light-sensitive nanoparticles could flood the world with solar power.

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Quantum dots could be the key to putting solar cells everywhere. Martin LaMonica/CNET

Colloidal quantum dots sound like something that young Jedi might use for training in a starfighter flight simulator, but they're actually a new form of solid nanoparticles that could lead to the creation of cheaper, lighter, and more flexible solar cells.

The new material could also be used to make better sensors, infrared lasers, remote controls, LEDs -- even satellites.

The dots were developed by a group led by post-doctoral researcher Zhijun Ning and Professor Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto. The team achieved more efficient light absorption in the material by solving a problem in which a type of semiconductor loses its electrons when exposed to the oxygen in the air. The new material can instead remain rich in electrons, even in the open air.

In addition to absorbing the sun's rays more efficiently, "With this new material we can build new device structures," said Ning in a release. The research was just published online in Nature Materials.

These dynamo dots could even be added to inks or paints. Consider the potential of brushing solar cells onto your roof: it could mean super-cheap and easy solar power for millions.

Once this technology becomes more widely understood and available, brace yourself for the onslaught of Kickstarter campaigns to paint solar power onto surfaces worldwide.

How about solar-collecting nanoparticles in sunscreen? Nothing better than catching some rays while powering up the camera that'll capture selfies of that new tan. Make it happen, my nerdy comrades.

 

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