Some recent partnership between UK university researchers and Corus Colours, also a UK-based firm, brought to the surface a promise of future commercialization of cheap dye-based solar panels.
The photovoltaic paint is made of dye and electrolytes that could be applied as a paste to steel sheets. There are four layers of paint applied to each of the steel sheets, and when the Sun’s light reaches the paint, the photon-excited molecules send an electron into an electron collector (nanocrystalline titanium oxide). In the end, the electrons move back into the dye.
The steel company, Corus Colours, says the solar cells have an efficiency of 11%, and they will be soon producing the solar paint based on this technology, starting October 30 in North Wales.
Research continues to evolve in this area, despite of the technology already being fabricated, and the scientists from the PV Accelerator Laboratory from North Wales hope to develop a procedure of applying about 30 to 40 square meters per second on a steel surface, so it would enable the final users to build their own home-made solar panels.
The efficiency is not so great at this solar panel, but it may lead to a revolution in the way photovoltaics are perceived by the consumers. Nowadays they are cheap, unaffordable and you need them in huge quantities to cover your daily needs, otherwise supplied by fossil fuel or other sources of energy. In the future, maybe you’ll get a tax discount if you paint your house in an electricity-producing paint, and you’ll have to rely very little on the grid. The energy industry of today could change into an industry researching and producing solar panels for everybody – there are still areas with little or no electricity on this planet, there’s still place for commercial activity, and there wouldn’t be much loss of profit if the grid starts producing cheaper energy from the Sun. Economically speaking.