University of Alberta researchers are working on new materials for solar cells

Zinc phosphide nanoparticles for printable, sprayable solar cells

J. den Haan     August 30, 2013     Featured, Photovoltaics, Sci-tech

Researchers from the University of Alberta discovered that zinc phosphide nanoparticles that can serve as materials for printable or sprayable solar cells. Phosphorus and zinc are more abundant too, which can lead to cheaper solar cells.

Researcher Jillian Buriak and her team were able to create zinc phosphide nanoparticles that can absorb light and conduct electricity. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the zinc phosphide nanoparticles can be dissolved into an ink. This ability of this material supports the development of cheaper solar cells that are made from mass production methods such as roll-to-roll printing or spray-coating.

Buriak and her team have been working on plastic-based solar cells so this new nanomaterial advances their work with this technology. There are many advantages that thin, plastic-based solar cells have which include lowering the cost of transporting and installing this technology compared to more traditional solar panels. reports that the researchers are now testing the efficiency of the nanoparticles by spray-coating them onto large solar cells. They’ve also applied for a provisional patent and has secured funding to scale-up production.

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Aussie scientists are also developing low-cost, printable, organic solar cells. Researchers from the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization led by Dr. Scott Watkins have already been able to print an A3-sized panel on flexible plastic.

The panels were printed onto PET plastics but the researchers are looking at printing the solar cells onto other materials such as steel roofing. Applications for the printed solar cells include indoor displays and small consumer devices while these can be used on buildings upon further development.

photo credit: University of Alberta

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