- Renewable & Alternative Energy
Quantum Dot Solar Cells | Advantages and Applications
Improved quantum dot applications are been discovered every day. One area that will get a major boost from these improvements is the area of solar cell technology.
Better quantum dots will also lead to applications in satellites and communication devices.
Scientists have succeeded in producing a novel type of quantum dot called a colloidal quantum dot that will have many applications from the use in solar cells to enhancing the performance of weather satellites.
Earlier efforts to produce quantum dots have resulted in loss of performance due to the affinity to oxygen of one the two semiconductors that make up the dot.
Quantum Dots in Solar Cells
Quantum dots are nanocrystals that are so small that they are able to take advantage of the laws of quantum physics. They are made from semiconductor materials and can be as small as 2 nanometres. Due to this ability, a number of research programs are been carried out all over the world so as to find applications where the technology can be implemented.
One area that is already showing promising results in the use of quantum dots is in solar cells. What makes quantum dots attractive here is that they can be incorporated into photovoltaic cells so as to absorb different areas of the solar spectrum.
This is possible because of a recently discovered property whereby adjusting the size of the nanoparticles gives them the ability to absorb different parts of the spectrum from the same cell.
This property of quantum dots when used in solar cells will lead to a reduction in the cost and difficulty of producing them. While current research has only produced under ten percent efficiency in the absorption of solar energy at the infrared spectrum, there are indications that major breakthroughs are on the way.
How will quantum dots be applied in solar cells?
Just like the typical photovoltaic cells, colloidal quantum dots solar cells are made from two types of semiconductors, the n-type and the p-type.
With the earlier attempts at making quantum cells, the n-type semiconductors that had been constructed from softer materials tended to bind easily with oxygen thus rendering them completely useless within a very short time.
The improvements that have been made in the current research include using lead-sulphide to construct the n-type semiconductor that does not bind with oxygen giving it a more reliable performance and power output.
With these new developments there are now many possibilities of devices that can take advantage of the performance capabilities of the quantum dot technology.
Because the solar cells made from quantum dots will be very small, they could be incorporated into paint which could be sprayed on the house to create a cheap source of energy. The spray on solar cells could also be used on the shingles to conveniently generate solar energy without using the breakable solar panels that we have become used to seeing.
This will be a great leap forward to the solar shingles currently been produced. While they are a step ahead the old panels, today’s solar shingles still face a few challenges especially since making them to have the same protective qualities of normal shingles.
With the colloidal quantum dot solar cell spray, there will be no need for replacing the current roof because all that you will have to do is spray on the solar cells. Manufacturing and installation costs of the solar cells will also come down as compared to the bulky and fragile panels we have today.
As mentioned earlier, the cells are yet to reach the performance levels of commercially available photovoltaic cells but one the threshold is passed, there will be a convincing business case for mainstream adoption of the technology.
Quantum dot wearable solar cells
As wearable technology continues to improve and get widespread acceptance, powering those devices may proof to be a challenge. With spray-on solar cells on clothes, the energy demands of the wearable devices will be easily met.
This will go a long way in helping to reduce the enormous power demands that are constantly rising because of a proliferation of electronic devices.
There have been many suggested methods for wearable solar cells that involve the same rigid materials that are used in solar panels. These solutions work on the principle of photovoltaic threads that are thinner than the human hair that can be woven into clothes.
This would mean a whole new line of clothing will have to be produced which might face the normal hurdles of market acceptance.
With the colloidal quantum dot solar cell spray, it will be easier to convert the current inventory of materials and clothing into wearable collar cells by simply spraying them with the dissolved solar cells.
Other applications of the quantum dot technology
Another application of the technology will be in pollution detectors that are highly sensitive and can detect the smallest amount of a substance that is been monitored.
This is because there is less noise to signal ratio in the device which makes it pick only the intended signal and ignore other parameters.
The same principle can also be used in the production of better weather satellites which will have more sensitive instruments on board as well as more capacity due to the increased power brought about by the new solar technology.