American Researchers develop DIY solar panels

It may be as easy as click-and-print when you need a spot of solar energy, according to American researchers who say they've developed an inexpensive solar cell that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets.

Researchers at New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) call the process “simple.”

The scientists from NJIT have developed a solar cell using a carbon nanotubes complex, which is a molecular configuration of carbon in a cylindrical shape. Scientists estimate nanotubes to be 50,000 times smaller than a human hair, but the new research suggests that just one nanotube can conduct current better than any conventional electrical wire.

The new do-it-yourself way of using solar power is said to be easy, and can be achieved by simply printing on some PC printers or paint- on plastic sheets.

The team’s lead researcher and author Somenath Mitra said:

“Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers. Consumers can then slap the finished product on a wall, roof or billboard to create their own power stations.”

One of the primary challenges of using renewable energy is cost.

Expensive, large-scale infrastructures such as windmills or dams are necessary to drive renewable energy sources, such as wind or hydroelectric power plants. Purified silicon, a core material for fabricating conventional solar cells is beyond the reach of most consumers.

“Developing organic solar cells from polymers, however, is a cheap and potentially simpler alternative,” said Mitra. “We foresee a great deal of interest in our work because solar cells can be inexpensively printed or simply painted on exterior building walls and/or roof tops.

“Imagine some day driving in your hybrid car with a solar panel painted on the roof, which is producing electricity to drive the engine. The opportunities are endless.”

Dana Gornitzki

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