Researcher Jillian Buriak, a chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, based on the University of Alberta campus
Researchers from the University of Alberta have designed a nanoparticle-based solar cell that can be easily manufactured and can be made inexpensively using common elements.
Researcher Jillian Buriak, a chemistry professor and senior research officer of the National Institute for Nanotechnology, based on the University of Alberta campus, and her team has designed nanoparticles that absorb light and conduct electricity from two very common elements: phosphorus and zinc.
Both materials are abundant, compared to scarce materials such as cadmium. In addition, the common elements are free from manufacturing restrictions imposed on lead-based nanoparticles.
“Half the world already lives off the grid, and with demand for electrical power expected to double by the year 2050, it is important that renewable energy sources like solar power are made more affordable by lowering the costs of manufacturing,” Ms. Buriak said.
The research team was able to develop a synthetic method to make zinc phosphide nanoparticles and demonstrated that the particles can be dissolved to form an ink and processed to make thin films that are responsive to light. This allowed them to make solar cells cheaply using mass manufacturing methods like roll-to-roll printing or spray-coating.
“Nanoparticle-based ‘inks’ could be used to literally pain or print solar cells on precise compositions,” Ms. Buriak said.
Ms. Buriak and her team are now experimenting with the nanoparticles, spray-coating them onto large solar cells to test their efficiency.
The team has already applied for a provisional patent and has secured funding to enable the next step to scale-up manufacture. The research was supported by the natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. – EcoSeed Staff