* Can be painted or printed onto walls or windows
* So tiny you could fit 250,000,000,000 on head of a pin
* Thin enough to be painted or printed onto walls
One day, a thin film of 'solar panel' could be painted over windows and walls to turn every home into a giant hi-tech 'sun trap'. The hi-tech solution could make solar energy a practical solution t the energy crisis. The technology has long been championed as a solution to the growing energy crisis, but as it exists now, it is far too expensive. A typical home needs around 285 square feet of solar panels to meet its electricity needs, costing around £10,000, although that does not include the expensive installation. Scientists at USC have developed a potential pathway to cheap, stable solar cells made from nanocrystals so small they can exist as a liquid ink and be painted or printed onto clear surfaces. The solar nanocrystals are about four nanometers in size — meaning you could fit more than 250,000,000,000 on the head of a pin — and float them in a liquid solution. 'Like you print a newspaper, you can print solar cells,’ said Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. Liquid nanocrystal solar cells are cheaper to fabricate than available single-crystal silicon wafer solar cells but are not nearly as efficient at converting sunlight to electricity.
Brutchey and Webber solved one of the key problems of liquid solar cells: how to create a stable liquid that also conducts electricity. With a relatively low-temperature process, the researchers' method also allows for the possibility that solar cells can be printed onto plastic instead of glass without any issues with melting – resulting in a flexible solar panel that can be shaped to fit anywhere. As they continue...