A recent partnership between the steel industry and UK university researchers has led to the development of a unique photovoltaic paint that can be applied to steel.
The paint is made up of dye and electrolytes that can be applied as a paste to steel sheets. Four layers of paint are applied to each sheet. When light hits the solar cells, excited molecules release an electron into an electron collector and circuit (nanocrystalline titanium dioxide). Finally, the electrons move back into the dye.
Photovoltaic paint has a number of advantages over traditional solar cells. It doesn’t have the material limitations of silicon solar cells, so it theoretically provides many terawatts of electricity at a low cost. Additionally, the paint can absorb light across the visible spectrum— so even cloudy days will reap lots of energy.
According to steel company Corus Colours, the solar cells can achieve a power conversion efficiency of 11 percent.
Production of solar paint will begin soon— a lab built to develop the new technology is starting work on October 30 in North Wales. Ultimately, researchers at the PV Accelerator Laboratory in North Wales hope to develop a way to apply solar paint to steel at 30 to 40 square meters per second.
I only wonder if solar paint will be available for purchase to consumers in the future— if so, it could easily lead to a do-it-yourself solar revolution.
Photo credit: Corus Colours
Ariel Schwartz was formerly the editor of CleanTechnica and is a contributor at Fast Company, Inhabitat, Triple Pundit, SF Weekly, and NBC Bay Area Online. A graduate of Vassar College, she has previously worked in publishing, organic farming, documentary film, and newspaper journalism. Her interests include permaculture, hiking, skiing, music, relocalization, and cob (the building material). She currently resides in San Francisco, CA.