Spray-On Solar

New technology hopes to expand solar applicability

Just in time for sunny weather, you now have the option to “spray on” your green energy instead of “rubbing it in” in front of those who use conventional methods.

Beginning with the exploration and development of a material called perovskite in the mid-2000s, researchers and solar companies may have found a versatile alternative to the silicon cells that currently dominate solar panel installations in the $42 billion industry.

Perovskites are a range of materials that can be used to harvest light when turned into a crystalline structure. First developed by Japanese graduate students in 2006 and listed as one of the most promising materials by the World Economic Forum in 2016, they are now being aligned for circulation: at least one British company aims to have a thin-film perovskite solar cell commercially available by the end of 2018, according to Bloomberg’s Chisaki Watanabe.

How does spray-on solar work? Illian Kramer, an IBM researcher at the University of Toronto described quantum dots in a March 2015 article with the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. These quantum dots, according to Kramer, could be made on a large area, printable, as with ink, using semiconductor technology. An alternative to spin coating or dip coating, Kramer and others worked to develop the quantum dots in an evenly dispersed, “manufacturable” manner. Most researchers and businesses alike see the method getting its start in residential solar. With small areas and houses as the guinea pig, they expect to gauge its efficiency before breaking into the wider solar markets, such as large-scale commercial solar projects.

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