Seeking the Solar-Tech Evolution

With the sun blazing and rising temperatures across the country, it’s not hard to imagine that solar power could provide a viable alternative to fossil fuels for a sizable fraction of the UKs energy demands.

Fortunately breakthroughs are starting to accelerate the evolution. This week researchers at the New Jersey Institute of Technology unveiled a design for inexpensive solar cells that can be painted or printed on flexible plastic sheets. The cells replace conventional photovoltaic cells with carbon nanotubes (a nanometer is one billionth of a meter) combined with tiny geodesic carbon “Buckyballs” (technically called fullerenes and named for Buckminster Fuller) that capture electrons and conduct the resulting current.

“The process is simple,” said lead researcher Somenath Mitra, chair of NJIT’s Department of Chemistry and Environmental Science. “Someday homeowners will even be able to print sheets of these solar cells with inexpensive home-based inkjet printers.”

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