Life Imitates Art: Solar Power Paint

Looks like researchers at Notre Dame are well on their way to developing the solar-power paint we mention in In the Shadow of Ares‘Sunbelievable’ Solar Paint Could Power Home Appliances, Scientists Say:

The paint, dubbed “Sunbelievable” by developers at the University of Notre Dame, looks no different from any other paint used to coat home exteriors and other surfaces. But when hit by light, the semiconducting particles within Sunbelievable produce small amounts of electricity that researchers hope they can magnify in great enough amounts to power home appliances, Science Daily reported.

“We want to do something transformative, to move beyond current silicon-based solar technology,” research leader and Notre Dame professor Prashant Kamat said. “By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment.”

Unfortunately the paint is far from ready to be sold commercially, Kamat explained.

“The best light-to-energy conversion efficiency we’ve reached so far is 1 percent, which is well behind the usual 10 to 15 percent efficiency of commercial silicon solar cells,” Kamat said. “But this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

The article helpfully points out that a typical household requires 285 square feet of silicon solar panels to supply its power needs at 10-15% efficiency, which means that same house would need around 3000 square feet of Sunbelievable at its current conversion efficiency. Ignoring incidence angles on painted surfaces, etc., that really isn’t an excessively large area for many American houses – especially if roof surfaces can be included.