Solar Cells Printed Onto Plastic Could Be The Future Of Sustainable Energy

USC researchers have developed a pathway to cheap and stable liquid solar cells that can be painted or printed onto clear surfaces.

Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) have developed a potential pathway to cheap and stable solar cells made from tiny nanocrystals that can exist as a liquid ink and be painted or printed onto clear surfaces. Assistant professor of chemistry Richard L. Brutchey and postdoctoral researcher David H. Webber developed a new surface coating for the nanocrystals, which are made of the semiconductor cadmium selenide.

They managed to create a stable liquid that also conducts electricity after discovering a synthetic ligand that stabilizes nanocrystals and builds tiny bridges connecting them to help transmit current. These solar cells could be printed onto plastic to create flexible solar panels that can be shaped to fit anywhere. Brutchey now plans to work on nanocrystals made from materials other than cadmium, which is restricted in commercial applications due to toxicity. He said:

While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies.


Photo by Dietmar Quistorf