Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors


Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Breakthrough will help spur viability of alternative energy

Abstract:
Organic solar cells being developed are made of plastic that is relatively inexpensive, flexible, can be wrapped around structures or even applied like paint

NMSU/Wake Forest solar breakthrough will help spur viability of alternative energy

October 07, 2005

Imagine being able to “paint” your roof with enough alternative energy to heat and cool your home. What if soldiers in the field could carry an energy source in a roll of plastic wrap in their backpacks?

Those ideas sound like science fiction, particularly in the wake of the rising costs of fossil fuel.

But both are on the way to becoming reality because of a breakthrough in solar research by a team of scientists from New Mexico State University and Wake Forest University.

While traditional solar panels are made of silicon, which is expensive, brittle and shatters like glass, organic solar cells being developed by this team are made of plastic that is relatively inexpensive, flexible, can be wrapped around structures or even applied like paint, said physicist Seamus Curran, head of the nanotechnology laboratory at NMSU. Nanotechnology, or molecular manufacturing, refers to the ability to build things one atom at a time.

The relatively low energy efficiency levels produced by organic solar cells have been a drawback. To be effective producers of energy, they must be able to convert 10 percent of the energy in sunlight to electricity. Typical silicon panels are about 12 percent energy conversion efficient.

That level of energy conversion has been a difficult reach for researchers on organic solar technology, with many of them hitting about 3 to 4 percent. But the NMSU/Wake Forest team has achieved a solar energy efficiency level of 5.2 percent. The announcement was made at the Santa Fe Workshop on Nanoengineered Materials and Macro-Molecular Technologies, which opened Sunday and continues through Friday.

“This means we are closer to making organic solar cells that are available on the market,” Curran said.

Conventional thinking has been that that landmark was at least a decade away. With this group’s research, it may be only four or five years before plastic solar cells are a reality for consumers, Curran added.

The importance of the breakthrough cannot be underestimated, Curran said.

“We need to look into alternative energy sources if the United States is to reduce its dependence on foreign sources,” the NMSU physics professor said.

New Mexico Economic Development Department Secretary Rick Homans added, “This breakthrough pushes the state of New Mexico further ahead in the development of usable solar energy, a vital national resource. It combines two of the important clusters on which the state is focused: renewable energy and micro nano systems, and underlines the strong research base of our state universities.”

A cheap, flexible plastic made of a polymer blend would revolutionize the solar market, Curran said.

“Our expectation is to get beyond 10 percent in the next five years,” Curran said. “Our current mix is using polymer and carbon buckyballs (fullerenes) and good engineering from Wake Forest and unique NSOM imaging from NMSU to get to that point.”

NSOM or near-field scanning optical microscopy allows them to scan objects too small for regular microscopes.

The development is an outgrowth of the collaborative’s work developing high-tech coatings for military aircraft, a program supported by Sens. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., and Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., Curran said.

The nanotechnologies workshop, being held at the Loretto Inn and Spa in Santa Fe, is co-sponsored by the Economic Development Department. Researchers from around the world are attending sessions that will examine novel and exotic approaches to nano-scale technologies.

The purpose of the gathering is to identify emerging nanotechnologies and opportunities. For more information on the conference, go to nanophysics.nmsu.edu/ and click on conference.

####


Copyright © New Mexico State University

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related News Press

Possible Futures

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

Attosecond physics: A switch for light-wave electronics May 24th, 2016

Supercrystals with new architecture can enhance drug synthesis May 24th, 2016

Nanoscale Trojan horses treat inflammation May 24th, 2016

Materials/Metamaterials

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

Supercrystals with new architecture can enhance drug synthesis May 24th, 2016

Rice de-icer gains anti-icing properties: Dual-function, graphene-based material good for aircraft, extreme environments May 23rd, 2016

Graphene makes rubber more rubbery May 23rd, 2016

Announcements

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

Attosecond physics: A switch for light-wave electronics May 24th, 2016

Supercrystals with new architecture can enhance drug synthesis May 24th, 2016

Nanoscale Trojan horses treat inflammation May 24th, 2016

Military

Nanoscale Trojan horses treat inflammation May 24th, 2016

Programmable materials find strength in molecular repetition May 23rd, 2016

Rice de-icer gains anti-icing properties: Dual-function, graphene-based material good for aircraft, extreme environments May 23rd, 2016

UW researchers unleash graphene 'tiger' for more efficient optoelectronics May 16th, 2016

Energy

Light can 'heal' defects in new solar cell materials: Defects in some new electronic materials can be removed by making ions move under illumination May 24th, 2016

Technique improves the efficacy of fuel cells: Research demonstrates a new phase transition from metal to ionic conductor May 18th, 2016

This 'nanocavity' may improve ultrathin solar panels, video cameras and more May 16th, 2016

New research shows how silver could be the key to gold-standard flexible gadgets: Silver nanowires are an ideal material for current and future flexible touch-screen technologies May 13th, 2016

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More











ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project







Car Brands
Buy website traffic