Brian Korgel Talks Solar Paint
Professor Brian Korgel recently lectured about his team’s progress to create paint that turns solar energy into electrical power, as part of the Hot Science-Cool Talks series organized by UT Austin’s Environmental Science Institute.
Korgel’s work aims to change the way we make solar cells, cells that convert solar energy into electrical power. “Currently, solar cells are largely based on silicon as a semiconductor, and silicon requires expensive processing,” Korgel explained. “Associated manufacturing costs make solar energy ten times more expensive than burning fossil fuels and produces a lot of waste.”
His research investigates how to use cost-effective microscopic nanocrystals as a semiconductor in solvent to create an “ink” of solar cells. The ink can be placed in roofing materials or paint to absorb light and produce electricity. Electricity would then be extracted through metal electrodes. Hopefully, this durable technology will displace the use of natural gas to power homes and replace heavy and brittle solar panels.
Reader’s Digest featured the concept as the twelfth best invention to improve your life in August 2010. “This is an important, but challenging, problem to solve,” said Korgel. “I believe solar energy is the best way to address some of the world’s toughest environmental issues, but one of the biggest challenges is making it affordable.”
Korgel is often asked when solar paint will be on the market. “We don’t know for sure, it’s realistic that it could be available in three to five years,” he said. “The basis of our research project at the moment is to understand what is limiting the materials and develop technology to overcome limitations to make it commercially viable. ”