Lowering your carbon footprint and reducing greenhouse gasses may become as simple as painting your home or office, thanks to breakthrough research from the University of Notre Dame. The researchers, led by Professor Prashant Kamat, have created a new solar paint dubbed “Sun-believable,” which is laced with power producing nanoparticles capable of producing electricity. With the ability to generate renewable energy from this new, less invasive method, bulky solar panels as we know them today may soon become relics destined for the museum.
A Bright Future for Renewable Energy
The sun is one of the most powerful forces humanity has ever encountered and we certainly would not exist without it. Throughout documented history our sun has been worshiped as a god or goddess by at least 19 different religions, stretching from one end of the planet to the other. Only recently, during the industrial revolution, did we begin to understand that harnessing this raw power is not only plausible but critical to creating a sustainable earth.
Professor Kamat’s team of researchers set out to revolutionize the field of solar energy production by creating a cheap and effective way to harness the sun’s free and plentiful energy. The team developed a solar paint by coating semi-conductive nanoparticles of titanium dioxide with either cadmium sulfide or cadmium selenide and mixing with a water and alcohol solution to create a paste. When this paste is applied to a transparent conductive material it can create electricity when exposed to sunlight.
The Ups and Downs of Solar Paint
One of the drawbacks to traditional solar panel installations is cost, which for a modern residential installation can cost around $20,000, depending on the size of the install. This is where solar paint shines, it is cheap and simple to make. The compounds used to create Sun-Believable are quite common and are readily available on the open market. Based on the formula from Patexia, it would only cost about $100 to cover 400 square feet of roof with the solar paint.
The challenge the team faces is to improve the efficiency of the solar paint. Currently the paint operates at about 1 percent efficiency as compared to 10 percent from the traditional solar panels. Professor Kamat recognizes this and according to Mashable.com said “this paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency somewhat, we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”
Energy Independence is a Paintbrush Away
Over 99 percent of the energy provided by the sun is wasted each day, leading to our continued burning of fossil fuels, further increasing the effects of global warming. To truly become energy independent all we need to do is wake up and support technical advances such as the solar paint technology. With a little bit of refinement, a sustainable living may just be a paintbrush away.
Matthew Speer is the founder of iSustainableEarth.com, a site dedicated to providing real solutions for real people – helping everyone embrace a sustainable lifestyle.