Washington: Researchers have found a way to tap the sun not only as a source of power but also to directly produce the solar energy materials that could make this possible.
This breakthrough by chemical engineers at Oregon State University could soon reduce the cost of solar energy, speed production processes, use environmentally benign materials, and make the sun almost a "one-stop shop" that produces both the materials for solar devices and the eternal energy to power them.
Chih-Hung Chang, a professor of chemical engineering at Oregon State University, and lead author on the study, said the system could produce solar energy materials anywhere there`s an adequate solar resource, and in this chemical manufacturing process, there would be zero energy impact.
The work is based on the use of a "continuous flow" microreactor to produce nanoparticle inks that make solar cells by printing. Existing approaches based mostly on batch operations are more time-consuming and costly.
In this process, simulated sunlight is focused on the solar microreactor to rapidly heat it, while allowing precise control of temperature to aid the quality of the finished product. The light in these experiments was produced artificially, but the process could be done with direct sunlight, and at a fraction of the cost of current approaches.
The findings have been published in RSC Advances , a journal of the Royal Society of Chemistry.