Research engineers at the University of Queensland claim to have made a breakthrough in solar technology by creating a flexible ‘skin’ that can use solar energy to power devices.
This new solar ‘skin’ has the potential to produce power for homes, cars and even smart phones and is one more step closer in becoming a widely available technology. The recent breakthrough has been that a new record was set for the electricity conversion of the technology.
The researchers, from the University of Queensland, work with the nanoparticles which are called quantum dots. These particles pass electrons and then produce an electric current when they are exposed to sunlight.
These dots are capable of being printed onto flexible sheets and the researchers believe they will be able to be printed on transparent skins to power a range of appliances such as electric vehicles or smart phones. The transparent sheets will be able to be applied to surfaces such as windows.
Lianzhou Wang and his team of researchers in the materials engineering field have increased the efficiency of the quantum dots and have been able to produce a world record amount of electricity conversion.
Wang and his researchers have managed to increase the current efficiency record up from 13.4 per cent to 16.6 per cent. This new record has also been acknowledged by the National Energy Research Laboratory in the United States.
This new record is an improvement of nearly 25 per cent from the previous one and is a major step in the right direction in making this technology commercially available said Wang. He also noted the positive effects it will have on reducing the effects of climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions.
The technology is now moving from being an exciting prospect in the world of technology to be an actual reality that many households will be able to make use of.
The quantum dot ‘skin’ technology is advantageous over traditional solar technology for many reasons. It is flexible, lightweight and still works under weaker lighting meaning it can produce electricity on cloudy days or from lighting inside. The technology is also relatively cheap to produce and can be used on a wide range of appliances.
The next step for Wang and his team is to try and reach a conversion efficiency of 20 per cent and start scaling up the technology so that it can be tested on large solar cells.
The number one priority is to increase the conversion efficiency rate of the technology, once this has been achieved Wang hopes the technology will start coming to the market. He expects it will be provided for mobile phones within wo years, and within five years it will be available for producing larger amounts of electricity on large scale rooftop solar technology.
However, for this technology to be successful it is essential that it has a smaller carbon footprint and is cheaper than current solar technology that is already available. In addition, current solar technology is already very cheap which makes it very hard for new technologies to enter the market.
There is hope for the quantum dots technology though. A 16.6 per cent conversion efficiency is already very competitive with most rooftop solar panels only having a conversion efficiency of around 19 per cent. Along with the other advantages of this solar ‘skin’ such as how flexible and lightweight it will be means it may just have the upper hand over traditional solar technologies in the not so far away future.