From SmartPlanet: “Print solar cells like newspapers” 

SmartPlanet is sponsored by IBM Corporation.

By Boonsri Dickinson | June 3, 2011

“While the adaption of solar energy continues to grow, solar cells are still really expensive and largely inefficient. Solar projects require a lot of land, sometimes on the order of many square miles. So what if you could print out the solar cells, just as easily as ink is printed on a newspaper?

That’s exactly what Argonne National Laboratory scientists have in mind. The researchers created layers of semiconductor film that can be used to produce cheaper layers to coat solar cells.

One way to grow solar cells at low cost is to manufacture them in solution. Using quantum dots, the researchers suspended bits of semiconductors in liquid, allowing semiconductor parts to bond with inorganic molecules when heated to a moderate temperature.

Argonne’s Dmitri Talapin said in a statement:

‘ We believe that we could make very competitive solar cells with these nanoparticles.’

This ink method could fix a couple of fundamental problems in solar energy. Other researchers are incorporating nanoparticles into solar cells as well. In 2009, Idaho National Laboratory researchers developed a way to use nanoparticles in their line of photovoltaic cells, helping the cells harness much more energy than traditional cells. One company called Broadband Solar created coatings that have metallic nanoantennas – which act like radio antennas.

The more efficient the solar cells are, the better. In fact, the amount of energy produced by solar in the United States accounts for just a fraction of all electricity generated. If you took the amount of energy the sun provides the Earth in one hour, it could power the entire globe for a year.”