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Sun-Believable Paint

December 24th, 2011
in econ_news

by Sanjeev Kulkarni

solar-paint-Notre-DameEconintersect: A team of researchers at the University of Notre Dame has created an inexpensive "solar paint" (pictured) that uses semiconducting nanoparticles to produce energy.  The paint falls short of what conventional solar cells can do, however.  Commercial solar energy panels have light to energy conversion between 10-15%, while the Notre Dame team has achieved 1%.

According to the University web site:

"Nano-sized particles of titanium dioxide, which were coated with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide. The particles were then suspended in a water-alcohol mixture to create a paste. When the paste is put on a conducting material and light was shone onto it, the scientists noticed that electricity was generated."

Follow up:

Prashant Kamat, who leads the research at the University, explains:

"We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology. By incorporating power-producing nano particles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, pwe’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

There are many critics of the Solar Energy.  GEI Investing published a pessimistic investment outlook by Elliott Gue for solar and other renewable energy technologies.  Earlier, Elliott Morss published (GEI Analysis) negative economic outlooks for the new technolgies over the next few years.  Elliott Gue says in his article that the U.S. $ 35 million loan guarantee to solar power company Solyndra by Dept. of Energy (U.S.) nation’s unhealthy obsession with green energy.  William K. Black has gone so far as to label the Solyndra affair a control fraud involving "liars loans."

But this has not deterred the real world of politics and business to jostle for market share. GEI has carried a news report on the heating up of solar technology trade issues between U.S., China and India. Nor are the researchers discouraged.

Prashant Kamat discounts the cost critics in his presentation:

"Over the last twenty years, the per-kWh price of photovoltaics has dropped from about $500 to nearly $5; think of what the next twenty years will bring."

Although coal is used to produce almost 50 percent of the electricity, experts say that unless clean coal technologyis developed it is not a good option. Nuclear power plants have also come under heavy criticism due to safety concerns after the Japan accident.  In energy hungry India, the nuclear plants have faced strong opposition.

There are other interesting research areas, such as quantum efficiency of photosynthetic energy conversion might turn the scale for efficient solar panels.  According to Space Daily:

"Researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)'s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) and the University of California (UC), Berkeley have recorded the first observation and characterization of a critical physical phenomenon behind photosynthesis known as quantum entanglement."

The world desperately needs miracles in energy.  We do hope that "Sun-Believable," as the new paint is called by Kamat, improves "somewhat" and becomes a roaring success.  But commercial success may not be around the corner.  Only a couple of years ago there was a lot of buzz about solar roofing shingles developed by Dow Chemical (NYSE:DOW) and we haven't heard much about them since.

Sources:
Notre Dame researchers develop paint-on solar cells: University of Notre Dame Web Site
Forget bulky panels on your roof - could the future of solar power be a coat of 'solar paint'?: Daily Mail
The Dirty Truth about Clean Energy  GEI Investing
Energy Economics Series by Elliott Morss  GEI Analysis
Solyndra Loans as Liars Loans  GEI Opinion
India, China, U.S.: Solar Trade Issues Heating Up: GEI News
Untangling the Quantum Entanglement Behind Photosynthesis: Space Daily
Dow Shingles Heat Up Solar Competition:  TheStreet.com









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