What do you get when you take a steel mill spray nozzle, an art-store airbrush and add some solar cells? Well, if you’re Illan Kramer, a University of Toronto and IBM researcher, what you get is one of the most exciting advances in solar technology.
He and his colleagues constructed a device, à la ‘Junkyard Wars,’ called sprayLD, which sprays solar cells onto a flexible film that can then be wrapped around oddly shaped surfaces, such as roadways, an airplane wing, your personal tablet, or a car fender. Says Kramer: “My dream is that one day you’ll have two technicians with Ghostbusters backpacks come to your house and spray your roof.” While that’s not on the immediate horizon, this is incredible advancement that will have real-world applications in no time.
The breakthrough in solar cell manufacturing allows them to be sprayed onto flexible surfaces using colloidal quantum dots (CQDs), which are miniscule, light-sensitive materials. This process is much simpler than standard batch processing or assembly line-type manufacturing, which is slow, inefficient and expensive. The technology behind sprayLD means that large, non-standard areas can be coated continuously with no major loss in solar conversion efficiency.
Next steps for Kramer’s team include building larger models of the sprayLD to test whether or not performance is affected by scale, as well as improving efficiency of the solar cell material itself. The team’s best-measured efficiency is 8.1%, which is close, but not quite at the benchmark for solar energy; a product should typically convert 10% of the sun’s energy into electrical energy. As Kramer explains, “…we’re getting there.”
According to the University of Toronto’s original news release: “A surface the size of your car’s roof wrapped with CQD-coated film would produce enough energy to power… 24 compact fluorescents.” It’s advances like this, on Canadian soil no less, that fuels an ongoing excitement for green technology and commitment to ‘getting there.’ The future of solar technology shines brighter thanks to the work of Kramer and his team.
About The Author
Serial Entrepreneur, Technologist and Inventor.
My objective is to develop useful products that have a net positive effect in the lives of those that use them and the environment that we live in.
CEO of Mission LED Lighting Company Ltd.
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