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Clean Power air force and army fund research on low cost solar power with quantum dots

Published on January 21st, 2012 | by Tina Casey


Army and Air Force Push Solar Power into Quantum Territory

January 21st, 2012 by  

air force and army fund research on low cost solar power with quantum dotsThe Department of Defense has been on a roll with new solar energy installations, but the real action is going on behind the scenes in laboratories where DoD is quietly supporting research into low cost, lightweight solar cells enhanced with quantum dots. In the latest project, researchers from the Army Research Laboratory and the Air Force Office of Scientific Research have teamed up with the University of Buffalo to create a quantum-enhanced technology that could boost existing solar cell efficiency by up to 45 percent, and possibly more.

Quantum Dots and Solar Power

Quantum dots are microscopic crystals, less than a nanometer (one billionth of a meter) wide. Because of their extremely small size, quantum dots have unique properties  that could revolutionize the production of cheap, ultra-efficient solar cells. They can be created through a chemical reaction that avoids the energy consumption and maintenance costs involved in fabricating that other important semiconductor in photovoltaic technology, silicon.

Army and Air Force Pursue Q-Dot Solar Tech

The University of Buffalo project involves increasing the efficiency of solar cells by embedding quantum dots within them, enabling the cells to capture more light from the infrared end of the spectrum. Other research teams are pursuing a similar path but the Buffalo team has added a new twist: their quantum dots are selectively “doped” to have a built-in charge, which makes them repel electrons that otherwise might be trapped. This enables more electrons to contribute to the electricity generated by the solar cell.

Low-Cost Solar Power From the Department of Defense to You, with Love

The Buffalo team has gotten well beyond the tinkering-around phase of its research and has founded a company called OPtoElectronic Nanodevices LLC. (OPEN LLC) to commercialize its technology, which it calls Q-BIC (quantum

dots are called Q-dots for short). Q-BICs can be applied to existing solar cells, so there is no need to spend additional time developing a platform in which to embed them. The next step is to get additional funding, if not from federal resources then from private investors, to get the technology in shape for mass production.

Image: Solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base. License AttributionShare Alike Some rights reserved by theregeneration.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Bsrkr

    the Military See’s peak oil as a major strategic threat for obvious reasons. They want to maintain their position for the world is going to go to hell in a hand basket when oil becomes scarce… of course this doesn’t mean you living in the US is going to be safe. The direction of the money flow for the last 30 years is obvious and when the oil peaks the military is going to need to keep you under control as you can no longer afford your life and the scenes we see today in Greece are coming home to roost in all American cities in a decade or so. Have Fun!

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  • Edward Kerr

    What confuses me is: if the military “gets it” on renewable energy, why in the H*** doesn’t the bulk of congressional reps???

  • Justin Time

    I meant sandals but I suppose saddles works too.

  • Justin Time

    This seems to be a good use of DoD resources. Develop alternative energy sources so we don’t have to go around the world killing folks for the oil under their saddles and vise versa.

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