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Canadian researchers move closer to cheap, spray-on solar cells

Researchers from the University of Alberta have found a way to make printable and spray-on solar cells.

Professor Jillian Buriak, of the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta campus, and her team have been working for years on this project that has the potential to make solar power more accessible.

They’ve designed nanoparticles that can absorb light and create electricity from phosphorous and zinc. These two materials are far more common than materials currently used in solar panels, such as cadmium.

“Half the world already lives off the grid, and with demand for electrical power expected to double by the year 2050, it is important that renewable energy sources like solar power are made more affordable by lowering the costs of manufacturing,” Buriak said.

Zinc Phosphide nanoparticles. Credited: National Institute for Nanotechnology

Zinc Phosphide nanoparticles. Credited: National Institute for Nanotechnology

Buriak’s team developed a way to make zinc phosphide nanoparticles that can be dissolved, forming an ink that absorbs light. The ink could allow for inexpensive mass production of solar cells, using methods similar to printing or spray-coating.

“Nanoparticle-based ‘inks’ could be used to literally paint or print solar cells or precise compositions,” Buriak said.

The research is published in the most recent issue of the journal ACS Nano. Now the team will test the nanoparticles on a larger scale.


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