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Breakthrough in solar cell tech paves the way for cheaper access to the sun’s power

Published Jun 11th, 2014 10:30PM EDT
New Solar Cell Tech: Colloidal Quantum Dots

Two scientists from the University of Toronto have figured out a way to create cheaper, lighter and more flexible solar cells, CNET reports, which could allow more users in the future to harness energy directly from the sun for different purposes.

Post doctoral researcher Zhijun Ning and Professor Ted Sargent have developed a “new form of solid, stable light-sensitive nanoparticles, called colloidal quantum dots” that can be used to make better and cheaper solar cells, better gas sensors, infrared lasers, infrared light emitting diodes, and other devices.

What the two scientists managed to do is to prevent one of the semiconductors used in quantum dots to degrade when exposed to oxygen, thus improving efficiency of light absorption.

Most importantly, the new material can be mixed into inks and painted or printed onto thin, flexible surfaces, such as roofing shingles.

“This is a material innovation, that’s the first part, and with this new material we can build new device structures,” Ning said. “Iodide is almost a perfect ligand for these quantum solar cells with both high efficiency and air stability—no one has shown that before.”

It’s not clear yet whether these nanoparticles can be used on smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. Apple already has patents that show the company is thinking about integrating tiny solar cells in displays to improve battery life on mobile devices.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.