We’ve talked before about dye-sensitized solar cells and the many possibilities that such research could hold. Just one of these is solar paint. It’s literally a paint containing a layer of dye-sensitized cells that could be coated onto steel and eventually turn the millions of steel buildings worldwide into innate solar collectors. Now, thanks to UK universities and steel manufacturer Corus Group, that solar paint is one step closer to mass production.
The technology has been developed and, starting October 30th, a laboratory in North Wales will begin work to develop and produce that revolutionary paint. The final product will have four different layers: an undercoat, the layer of dye-sensitized cells, electrolytes, or titanium dioxide, a white pigment, and a protective film as the final layer. All of these layers combine to form a white paste that can literally be rolled onto steel sheets during manufacturing.
Scientists and researchers are basically mimicking natural photosynthetic processes. Light hits the dye-sensitized cells and excites molecules in the cells which, in their excited state, release electrons into the titanium dioxide layer. There, the electrons are collected and produce electrical current. When all is said and done, the electrons are attracted back to the dye by positively charged diodes, regenerating the cells. Another advantage of these cells is that they can absorb light across a wider range of the spectrum; good news for areas, such as the UK, with a good proportion of cloudy days.
Just to show the immense possibilities behind solar paint production – according to Renewable Energy World, Corus Group itself produces about 100 square meters of steel sheets per year. Coat all these with solar paint and you’ll produce as much as 9,000 gigawatts (GW) of electricity each year (given 11 percent efficiency). Not bad for just one steel manufacturer!