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February 25th, 2009
Twenty years from now, if roofs around the world are speckled with power-generating plastic solar panels, it may be thanks, at least in part, to a microscopic layer of Canadian technology sandwiched inside each one.
Researchers at the National Institute for Nanotechnology at the University of Alberta have developed a method that increases the efficiency in plastic photovoltaic cells by 30 per cent, a breakthrough they say may someday help make cheap, clean solar power available to the masses.
"I think this is kind of important to get out for Alberta," said Jillian Buriak, a Canada Research Chair in chemistry who helped lead the project. "In terms of energy, we're more than oilsands."
Buriak and the rest of the team, an interdisciplinary group that includes engineers, chemists and physicists, made their advancement by developing a compound to spread between two layers of the plastic cell. Just one billionth of a metre thick, the compound helps energy jump from one level to another on its way to becoming usable electricity.
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