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A New Step Taken Towards Spray-On Solar Cells and Self-Powered e-readers


Beside industry’s great energy consumers, there are also small gadgets, hundreds of millions of them. Most of the gadgets available nowadays use backlights, which consume lots of energy.

Recently-invented e-readers, though, do not have this issue, since they only use ambient reflections as their source of energy – mostly like regular paper. Still, current e-readers are limited to black and white, since their electrophoretic displays only know how to let light pass or block it.

University of Florida researchers have invented spray-on polymers that can reflect or transmit any color, and can be applied to glass or plastics as well. “That’s what this newest paper is about, but we’ve also developed polymer coatings for all the other colors of the spectrum,” said John Reynolds, a scientist at the University of Florida who led a team that developed the clear-to-black polymers.

Reynolds and his team now want to develop a spray-on technique that can cover much larger areas, such as billboards. Florida scientists, in collaboration with BASF, have developed a range of color-changing polymers during the last few years.

A color-changing polymer-based device available to consumers is still a long way off, said Reynolds. However, such a gadget should be competitive with existing technology in both price and performance.

What’s most interesting, though, is that the spray-on polymer could be used harness solar power, thus making the devices that it’s sprayed on virtually energy-independent. Wherever there’s light, they work – you couldn’t have read them in darkness, anyway. But just like Reynolds said – it’s a long way off. However, the Florida researchers are already collaborating with a company called Sestar to develop “aesthetically pleasing” solar cells based on the polymer they just discovered.

I remember I’ve seen something like this in an old Polish sci-fi movie, called “The Visitors”, where some scientists from the future sprayed something on a mirror and that substance served as a display for their communication device. Neat.

[via msnbc]

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