A unique high tech financing organization called Shrink Nanotechnologies is putting its money behind a new kind of electronic glue that could help bring about a significant improvement in photovoltaic cells. The “glue” is actually a means of switching molecules on the surface of nanocrystals, in order to achieve a significant increase in their ability to transfer electrons from one to the other.
Electronic Glue and Low Cost Solar Energy
Nanocrystals are emerging as a promising format for the next generation of solar cells, but there is a catch. Though they are good at collecting energy in the form of light, they are not very adept at transferring that energy anywhere else. The culprit is the bulky organic molecules on the surface of nanocrystals. The new technology, developed by Dr. Dmitri Talpin of the University of Chicago, consists of engineering nanocrystals capped with inorganic molecules. This increases the “electronic coupling” between nanocrystals. It’s somewhat analogous to gluing individual crystals together into one continuous mass, hence the name “electronic glue.”
Benefits of Nanocrystals
If commercially successful, electronic glue could lower the cost of photovoltaic cells. Cells made from the new nanocrystals would be easier (and cheaper) to manufacture, because they could be made through a printing process. They could use alternative low-cost materials instead of larger, more expensive crystals such as silicon, and they could use nanocrystals that capture a broader spectrum of light.
Cleantechnica covered Shrink last year, when the company formed a subsidiary to commercialize a new nanocrystal solar film technology based on a concept inspired by Shrinky Dinks. The new product will be developed by a new subsidiary called BlackBox Semiconductor.
Image: Glue on by Harmony on flickr.com.