Nanotechnology Now

Our NanoNews Digest Sponsors



Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


android tablet pc

Home > Press > Could blue jean dye and white house paint solve the energy crisis?

Abstract:
Imagine coating the roof of your house with a paint that absorbs energy from the sun - and lets you use that energy to power your television, computer or toaster.

Could blue jean dye and white house paint solve the energy crisis?

Evanston, IL | Posted on February 21st, 2008

Northwestern chemistry professor Mark Ratner hopes that one day you'll be able to do just that with a can of paint he calls "a battery in a jar."

The technology would use tiny nanostructures to convert sunlight into energy, similarly to the process of photosynthesis in plants.

It's just one application of nanotechnology to the energy problem, Ratner said Wednesday night at the monthly Science Café event in Evanston. His talk covered the science behind innovations that could provide clean and efficient energy alternatives.

The problem of scale

With oil prices topping $100 a barrel this week, and recent studies suggesting ethanol and other plant-based fuels may be worse for the environment than conventional fuels, pressure is growing to find a better solution.

"The real issue is that there are a lot of us. There are six billion of us. And there are going to be more. And that means that no little solutions are really very interesting," Ratner said.

Wind and geothermal power can provide clean energy, but not enough of it. "As wonderful as it would be to have a windmill in everybody's back yard generating energy for their house, that's not going to do it for the Earth," Ratner said. "There isn't enough energy that way."

For a solution to be truly effective, it must be scalable. That is, it must produce enough energy to meet the world's needs - especially considering the rapid growth of countries like India and China.

"They are going to be where we are in a few years," he said. "And if India and China use energy the way we use energy, then it's going to get hard to breathe, and the polar bears are going to have a rough time, and the seas are going to get warmer, and the coral reefs are going to die, and it's going to be a different world."

A new kind of solar panel

So what is the best scalable energy source? The sun, Ratner said.

"Coal, oil, wind, biomass - all that energy is originally solar energy," he said. "The energy came here from the sun. And leaves, which are nanostructures, turned it into the kinds of energy that we use today."

Scientists are now trying to design solar panels using nanostructures that work like leaves, but better. The goal is 30 percent efficiency in converting sunlight into power - much higher than the efficiency of biofuels.

"The corn organism is 3 percent efficient in harvesting the energy of the sun," Ratner said. "You've got to do better than that." Miscanthus grass, another source of biofuel, is less than 5 percent efficient.

While conventional solar panels made from silicon are about 18 percent efficient, "the cost involved in making them is so high," he said, "that they'd have to run for several years just to pay back the energy cost in making them."

Nanostructures, on the other hand, would use inexpensive materials to capture sunlight. That's where the blue jeans and house paint come in.

In artificial photosynthesis, you need a molecule to absorb the sunlight, but not any molecule will do. (See accompanying video for an explanation of how photosynthesis works.)

"The molecules that we probably want to use are related to the blue jean dye that you've got," Ratner said. "It's a planar molecule, it has the right shape and it has the right energy properties."

The dye is called a thalocyanine and is also found in shoe polish.

Once the molecules capture solar energy, that energy must be stored somewhere - otherwise, it will be given off as heat. White house paint contains titanium dioxide, and when mixed with the dye molecules, titanium dioxide holds on to the energy the dye collects.

Turning concept into reality

The next challenge is to develop the right kind of wire to get the energy back out of the paint and dye mixture.

"Right now, that's a bottleneck," Ratner said. "Nobody's found the right wire to be compatible with this whole thing."

The titanium dioxide in paint has been shown to be up to 12 percent efficient in capturing energy, but there's still a long way to go.

"When you design a solar energy system, the important point is the word ‘system.' It's not like taking an aspirin, which does one thing and, you know, it's great," he said. "This has to capture the energy, separate the charges, hold the charges, recombine the charges and do it all efficiently. And do it in a way that's sustainable and do it in a way that won't break anything. So you have to be able to use it at least 500 million times in order for it to be practical."

So will the solar panel paint ever be developed?

"I actually have a little bit of money from the U.S. government to do exactly that," Ratner said. "They're interested in, for example, [paint-powered] remote sensors. They would like to power a sensor that's out in the middle of the desert somewhere trying to count neutrons. Or they would like to [use it to] power a sensor that's on the highway seeing how fast you're driving."

####

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Chicago Newsroom
105 W. Adams St., Suite 200 Chicago, IL 60603

News Desk(312) 503-4100
(312) 503-4200
(312) 503-4040 (Fax)

Mindy Trossman
Director of Medill News Service
(312) 503-0778

Copyright © Northwestern 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

News and information

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

A new, tunable device for spintronics: An international team of scientists including physicist Jairo Sinova from the University of Mainz realises a tunable spin-charge converter made of GaAs August 29th, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

Videos/Movies

RMIT delivers $30m boost to micro and nano-tech August 26th, 2014

The channel that relaxes DNA: Relaxing DNA strands by using nano-channels: Instructions for use August 20th, 2014

“Active” surfaces control what’s on them: Researchers develop treated surfaces that can actively control how fluids or particles move August 6th, 2014

New Method Provides Nanoscale Details of Electrochemical Reactions in Electric Vehicle Battery Materials August 4th, 2014

Possible Futures

Air Force’s 30-year plan seeks 'strategic agility' August 1st, 2014

IBM Announces $3 Billion Research Initiative to Tackle Chip Grand Challenges for Cloud and Big Data Systems: Scientists and engineers to push limits of silicon technology to 7 nanometers and below and create post-silicon future July 10th, 2014

Virus structure inspires novel understanding of onion-like carbon nanoparticles April 10th, 2014

Local girl does good March 22nd, 2014

Announcements

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

New analytical technology reveals 'nanomechanical' surface traits August 29th, 2014

New Vice President Takes Helm at CNSE CMOST: Catherine Gilbert To Lead CNSE Children’s Museum of Science and Technology Through Expansion And Relocation August 29th, 2014

Interviews/Book Reviews/Essays/Reports/Podcasts/Journals

Raman Whispering Gallery Detects Nanoparticles September 1st, 2014

A new, tunable device for spintronics: An international team of scientists including physicist Jairo Sinova from the University of Mainz realises a tunable spin-charge converter made of GaAs August 29th, 2014

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

New analytical technology reveals 'nanomechanical' surface traits August 29th, 2014

Energy

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Aspen Aerogels, Inc. to Present at Barclays CEO Energy-Power Conference August 27th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Chemical reaction yields "tapes" of porphin molecules: Flexible tapes from the nanoworld August 13th, 2014

Home

Industrial Nanotech, Inc. Announces Agreement with Eagle Roofing Products to Produce Ultra-Premium Concrete Roof Tile June 17th, 2014

SABIC collaborates with Cima NanoTech on breakthrough technology: industry-first transparent conductive polycarbonate film May 29th, 2014

Large interest in new high-performance insulating material SLENTITE May 28th, 2014

TenasiTech secures investment to ‘toughen up’ acrylic glass May 1st, 2014

Industrial

Nanoscale assembly line August 29th, 2014

Iranians Find Novel Method for Processing Highly Pure Ceramic Nanoparticles August 12th, 2014

PerkinElmer to Display Innovative Detection and Informatics Offerings at ACS National Meeting & Exposition Detection, Data Visualization and Analytics for Chemistry Professionals August 8th, 2014

Nanostructured metal-oxide catalyst efficiently converts CO2 to methanol: Highly reactive sites at interface of 2 nanoscale components could help overcome hurdle of using CO2 as a starting point in producing useful products July 31st, 2014

Solar/Photovoltaic

Novel 'butterfly' molecule could build new sensors, photoenergy conversion devices August 28th, 2014

Competition for Graphene: Berkeley Lab Researchers Demonstrate Ultrafast Charge Transfer in New Family of 2D Semiconductors August 26th, 2014

Eco-friendly 'pre-fab nanoparticles' could revolutionize nano manufacturing: UMass Amherst team invents a way to create versatile, water-soluble nano-modules August 13th, 2014

An Inkjet-Printed Field-Effect Transistor for Label-Free Biosensing August 11th, 2014

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







© Copyright 1999-2014 7th Wave, Inc. All Rights Reserved PRIVACY POLICY :: CONTACT US :: STATS :: SITE MAP :: ADVERTISE