Imagine it: Paintable solar panels! Not yet, of course, but scientists at several universities have discovered ways to put chemicals into paint that would generate electricity. The theory is simple: paint fades with sunlight, right? Therefore, the paint is already reacting to the sunlight in some way. The trick then is to use the energy getting dumped into the paint and convert it into electricity.
Here are a couple of companies and scientists with more specific applications:
* Nanosolar, in sunny California, has devised a kind of film that can be applied directly to steel. They’re not profitable yet, but they began commercial production in November.
• Scientists at the University of Swansea, in jolly old England, have invented a kind of paste that can be rolled onto steel panels of the sort that’s often used for bridges, and similar to aluminum siding. They think they’re 2.5 years away from mass production.
• Our friends to the north, or in my case to the north east, at the University of Toronto, has devised a way to capture specific wavelengths of light using “quantum dots”. I’m not certain of the technology here, but Ted Sargent, the primary investigator, thinks he can tune his dots so they capture specific wavelengths of light, including the infrared spectrum, a part of the suns energy that no solar cells currently capture. He thinks he can put the dots into paint that we could spray on to any surface. He’s a good decade away from production, but I can already envision great, electricity generating murals painted onto the sides of buildings.
My question that remains unanswered for all of these, though, is I’m not clear how the engineers actually extract the charged up electrons from the paint. Do you just attach some copper wire to it or something? Any engineers out there have a guess?
[Via Treehugger, and thanks to inhabitat for the picture.]