Specialty Chemical Companies Could Revolutionize the Energy Industry with New Nanotechnology Solar Paint

Energy, Materials Studio

sunset over water
The nuclear fission that occurs in the Sun generates trillions and trillions of energy, some of which arrives on Earth. Specialty chemical companies can use nanocrystals to better harvest this power source.
Image Source: Flickr CC user Edmund Garman.

Almost ninety-three million miles away, nuclear fission is occurring at the center of our solar system as hydrogen nuclei fuse together to form helium1 and release millions of joules in energy in the process. Each second, 1.7 x 10^17 J of that energy will strike Earth’s surface.2 Harvesting this energy and rendering it usable to power our cars, electronics, and our world, in general, is one of the most sought after goals of the present century. Indeed, an NPR report on solar energy stated, “solar energy’s day in the sun may have finally arrived…Now solar power is actually competitive with more traditional energy sources like coal, oil and natural gas.”3

Today, solar panels are mass-produced in places like China, and that has led to a steady decline in the cost of solar power. But the cost could go down even further using nanotechnology, namely through the development of nanocrystals. Nanocrystals are material particles that are very small, and their atoms are arranged in a crystalline formation.4 When embedded in a variety of materials, nanocrystals change the characteristics of these materials in ways that benefit engineers and other innovators.

Specialty Chemical Companies Put Nanocrystals to Good Use with Solar Paint

Recently, researcher Matthew P. Genovesse and his colleagues published a paper in ACS Nano titled, “Sun-Believable Solar Paint: A Transformative One-Step Approach for Designing Nanocrystalline solar cells.” In the paper, the authors use nanoparticles of titanium dioxide coated with cadmium nanocrystals and mixed with water and alcohol. When they brushed the mixture (a yellow paste) onto a conductive glass electrode and attached it to a counter-electrode, they were able to complete a circuit that generated electricity when light was shined on its surface.5

Though their findings are preliminary, specialty chemical companies should build on this discovery. If people were able to simply paint solar panels onto their homes, this discovery would revolutionize the energy industry and market to the benefit of specialty chemical companies capable of creating such a novel item. Furthermore, specialty chemical companies have expertise in modifying chemicals, making them well-equipped to determine how to create custom colors of the solar paste described above.

Beyond revolutionizing the developed world, the use of a specialty chemical with solar panel applications would revolutionize the developing world, allowing people without reliable energy sources to power their homes.

From Dreams to Realities with Simulation/Modeling Software

To fully develop a solar panel-like specialty chemical will require a careful investment in resources and technology. Furthermore, determining how different dyes and chemicals will interact will be essential for the project described above. Modeling and simulation software will allow researchers working with specialty chemical companies to predict and understand how, for example, cadmium could be modified to reflect different colors. Researchers must also know how their modifications can, in turn, affect a material’s properties and behavior.

Expensive tests could be ordered to answer questions about the relationships between nanoparticles and the materials in which they exist, but the purpose of modeling and simulation software—such as the Materials Studio platform from BIOVIA—is to allow researchers to quickly develop these new materials in a more cost-effective manner. With the appropriate software, researchers can easily share information about their modifications with colleagues in different subdivisions and locations in a way that expedites the discovery process. Indeed, collaboration is often considered an essential component of the discovery process.

Because nanocrystals are so small, and they can dramatically alter the solids and liquids in which they exist, specialty chemical companies should use simulation software to construct and manipulate models of other crystalline materials, polymers, and liquids. This software will help determine how best to create the next-generation, potentially paintable solar panels. To learn more about how BIOVIA can help you reach your organization’s goals, please contact us today.

  1. “The Sun & its Energy,” 2003, http://environ.andrew.cmu.edu/m3/s2/02sun.shtml
  2. “Orders of magnitude,” July 14, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orders_of_magnitude_(energy)
  3. “Solar Energy’s Popularity Increases As Rooftop Panels Get Less Expensive,” November 26, 2014, http://www.npr.org/2014/11/26/366729911/solar-energy-s-popularity-increases-as-rooftop-panels-get-less-expensive
  4. “Nanocrystal,” April 30, 2015, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nanocrystal
  5. “Solar Paint Converts Light to Electricity,” December 30, 2011, http://www.scientificamerican.com/podcast/episode/solar-paint-converts-light-to-elect-11-12-30/

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