A new and innovative type of solar-sensitive nanoparticles is destined to open up the bright possibility of being able to buy more cost efficient solar panels for homes and businesses. The new kind of solar-sensitive nanoparticles that are set to revolutionize the solar panel industry were developed by designed by a team of researchers from the University of Toronto’s Edward S. Rogers Sr. Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering.
The nanoparticles form into solid, stable units referred to as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs). They are a superior and more cost efficient alternative to other materials, and the colloidal quantum dots can be used to create such solar energy-related gadgets as less expensive infrared light emitting diodes, infrared lasers, solar cells, and next-gen gas sensors.
The lead authors of the research are Professor Ted Sargent and Zhijun Ning. They have published their findings about the many potential uses for using the energy-saving and efficient nanoparticles called colloidal quantum dots in the Nature Materials journal.
In a news release about the product, Ning called it “a material innovation,” and he added that “with this new material we can build new device structures.”
Two semiconductor types are required to collect sunlight using the colloidal quantum dots. They are p-types, ones that are poor in electrons; and n-types, semiconductors which are rich in electrons. Ning and Sargent’s team of researchers has managed to create a n-type material colloidal quantum dot that resists binding its electrons with oxygen, which happens with other n-type materials. If the binding occurs, the n-types lose electrons, becoming p-types.
With these n-type semiconductor colloidal quantum dots that resist the binding of their electrons with oxygen, Ning and Sargent’s team has developed a method to have stable alternating layers of p- and n-type materials. According to the study findings in Nature Materials, this stability both boosts the efficiency of the solar panels to absorb light, and also opens up the possibility of using the colloidal quantum dots in optoelectronic devices, ones in which the energy source is light.
According to the researchers, this new method of layering the enhanced n-type colloidal quantum dots with the p-type made solar power conversion up to eight percent more efficient. These colloidal quantum dots can be mixed with fluids like paint and ink, and applied to surfaces such as roofing shingles. That could result in a much lower cost for solar power, making this way of heating and cooling houses and businesses more widely available. Other applications include being used in pollution detectors, advanced weather satellites, orbiting communication systems, and remote controllers.
The new and innovative type of solar-sensitive nanoparticles developed and designed by Ning and Sargent’s research team and their use of it to create a hybrid layering of n- and p-type semiconductors using colloidal quantum dots could succeed in making solar energy more cost efficient and more widely available to millions of people around the world. Ning, Sargent, and the other researchers on their team worked on this project in collaboration with Huazhong University of Science and Technology, Dalhousie University, and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.
Written by: Douglas Cobb