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Infrared-Sensitive Plastic Solar-Power Cells
Plastic solar cells used today are only able to harness the sun's visible light, resulting in products that can capture just 6% of the radiant energy available. But a team of scientists at the University of Toronto have developed spray-on plastic solar-power cells that have the ability to harness the infrared portion of the sun's light rays as well. The infrared sensitive cells could potentially harness some 30% of the sun's radiant energy, significantly reducing or eliminating our dependence on traditional electrical production using fossil fuels.
Similar to paint, the plastic cells can be easily sprayed onto other materials and used as portable or mobile electricity. Some potential uses that have been discussed by the researchers include:
- A hydrogen-powered car painted with the film that could convert enough energy into electricity to continually recharge the car's battery.
- The plastic material could be woven into a shirt or sweater and used to charge a cell phone or iPod.
- Solar cell window coatings that could capture enough infrared light to power home appliances.
- An energy-saving plastic sheeting could be placed over the roof to supply the heating needs of the building.
- "Solar farms" could be constructed that harness a large amount of the sun's energy, which can be used to power just about all of our energy needs
The significant barrier to wide-spread solar power adoption has always been cost-effectiveness. Researchers hope this will change with the discovery of these efficient, flexible, and convenient plastic solar cells.
Professor Edward H. Sargent
Nortel Networks - Canada Research Chair in Emerging Technologies
Phone: (416) 946-5051