The next big thing in sustainable energy: solar paint?

The solar business in the US generated more than $150 billion in economic activity in 2016. When an industry starts receiving that kind of substantial funding, you can be sure that new invention won’t be far behind.

What else has a more futuristic sound than “solar paint”? A paint that still functions as regular paint but also produces electricity? the capacity to convert an entire structure—not just a roof—into a solar-generating surface? I’m not sure what else could be more innovative if that.

Traditional photovoltaic solar panels have formed the backbone of the solar business up until this point. A tried-and-true technology, solar panels help homes save a ton of cash. People are frequently discouraged from switching to solar energy, though, due to the complexity and cost of installing rooftop panels.

Imagine a world where we could produce power by simply painting our walls and roofs with a certain kind of paint. Even if we’re a long way from using this technology in practice, it’s fascinating to consider.

And what exactly is solar paint? The most crucial thing to understand is that there are presently three different technologies referred to as “solar paint,” not one single product.

The 3 types of solar paint

The scientific community has long debated the possibility of producing electricity using a material akin to paint. The potential for real-world applications has only just become apparent.

There are three main developments that are categorised as solar paints. Here, we examine what they are and what they might imply for solar energy’s future.

#1 Solar paint Hydrogen

Professors from RMIT who have developed a solar paint that extracts hydrogen from the air

Professors from the research team at RMIT University who have developed the hydrogen-extracting solar paint.

The Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) has created solar paint that uses water vapor to produce energy.

Simply put, the paint functions by absorbing moisture from the air and converting the water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen using solar energy. After that, the hydrogen can be used to create renewable energy.

This is how the paint truly functions: it has synthetic molybdenum-sulphide, a recently created chemical. It functions similarly to silica gel, which you’ve probably seen packaged with consumer goods to keep them dry, by absorbing moisture from the air.

Titanium oxide, which is already included in traditional paint, is also included in this solar paint. In order to convert the absorbed moisture into hydrogen and oxygen particles, the paint needs to utilise sun energy, which the titanium oxide helps it do. After that, the hydrogen can be used to create renewable energy.

Dr. Torben Daeneke, the principal researcher at RMIT, said, “Our novel development has a wide range of benefits. To feed the system, no clean or filtered water is required. Fuel can be made anywhere there is airborne water vapor, even in distant locations far from water.

The fact that this technique produces hydrogen, a clean fuel and energy storage source, makes it particularly unique. This hydrogen-collecting solar paint could perhaps be an economical and environmentally beneficial technique to gather hydrogen for generating energy, if they develop to the point where they are ready for commercial application.

#2 Quantum dot solar cells, aka photovoltaic paint

Quantum dot solar cells aka photovoltaic paint

Scientists that have helped NREL set a new efficiency record of 13.4% for a quantum dot solar cell. 

The University of Toronto is where quantum dots, sometimes known as photovoltaic paint, were created. They can absorb light and convert it into an electric current because they are tiny semiconductors.

To use the correct technical word, “colloidal quantum dot photovoltaics” are not only more affordable to produce than conventional solar cells, but also substantially more effective.

Susanna Thon, the author of the study, claims that colloidal quantum dots have two benefits. They lower the cost of producing electricity, as measured by the cost per watt of power, firstly because they are substantially less expensive. The key benefit is that you may alter the quantum dot’s light-absorption spectrum by only changing its size.

The efficiency of these dots could surpass that of conventional solar panels by up to 11%. Theoretically, we would be able to paint these quantum dots on our roofs and other surfaces at some time in the future to convert sunlight into electricity.

#3: Perovskite solar paint

Perovskite solar paint

NREL scientist David Moore paints a perovskite solution onto glass.

Perovskites, often known as spray-on solar cells, are what enable the creation of this kind of solar paint.

Perovskite materials are made from a calcium titanium oxide mineral and are named after the Russian mineralogist Lev Perovski. Although the perovskite structure was initially discovered in 1839, it wasn’t until a research team in Japan introduced the first-ever use of perovskite for solar cell manufacturing ten years ago.

Perovskite solar cells are particularly intriguing since they can take a liquid form, which makes them the perfect choice for solar paint.

In reality, scientists have discovered a technique for applying spray-on solar cells, also known as liquid perovskite cells, to surfaces. The University of Sheffield created the first spray-on solar cell ever in 2014. To create a sun-harvesting layer, a perovskite-based combination was sprayed over a surface.

The future of solar paint

The future of solar paint

A man painting a wall or solar installer of the future?

Here are three potential future applications for solar paint:

  • Add solar paint to existing solar systems. Existing solar installations might benefit greatly from the addition of solar paint. People who have solar panels could add another energy source by using solar paint on their walls and rooftops.
  • Cars with solar paint. Solar paint has the potential to be an excellent solution to provide automobiles the ability to generate solar power with a few adjustments.
  • A solar arrangement that can generate power on its own. High-quality solar paint has the potential to become a major source of power generation for homes and businesses in the future with improved efficiency levels and lower manufacturing costs.

Final word on solar paint

The solar paint technologies covered in this article have the potential to totally transform the renewable energy sector.

Any type of solar paint has the potential to make solar power systems commonplace on a global scale. There is a chance to solar paint every roof.

Unfortunately, we are still a few years away from seeing commercial uses for solar paint technology.

Up until then, rooftop solar panels are without a doubt the best option if you want to generate your own clean energy and save a ton of money on electricity bills. Purchasing solar panels for your home is a no-brainer thanks to the 26% government tax credit that is available until the end of 2022.

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