Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Whatever happened to quantum dot solar energy technology?

Sometimes, when I search for posts, I run across forgotten stories I was once excited about.

For example, I was once pretty impressed by this 2005 report of high efficiency quantum dot solar energy technology ...

Gordon's Notes: The big event of 2005: nanotech solar energy conversion?

..CTV.ca | New plastic can better convert solar energy

TORONTO — Researchers at the University of Toronto have invented an infrared-sensitive material that's five times more efficient at turning the sun's power into electrical energy than current methods...

Sargent and other researchers combined specially-designed minute particles called quantum dots, three to four nanometres across, with a polymer to make a plastic that can detect energy in the infrared....

...Sargent said the new plastic composite is, in layman's terms, a layer of film that "catches'' solar energy. He said the film can be applied to any device, much like paint is coated on a wall...
"We've done it to make a device which actually harnesses the power in the room in the infrared.''
The film can convert up to 30 per cent of the sun's power into usable, electrical energy. Today's best plastic solar cells capture only about six per cent.

...Sargent's work was published in the online edition of Nature Materials on Sunday and will appear in its February issue.

Given today's rising oil prices, I assume my excitement was premature.

So what's happened since 2005?

The Sargent group web site now says:

... This first report did not achieve a high efficiency in the infrared. We are working to realize record photovoltaic efficiencies in the infrared to bring performance to what is needed to become commercially relevant...

In other words, the initial press release was a bit ... misleading.


I have no problem spotting exaggeration in healthcare related articles, but unsurprisingly I don't do quite as well in other areas. I should have looked for more sophisticated secondary discussions rather than working from the CTV article.

1 comment:

Jake said...

Good post. Not only are these quantum-dot photovoltaic cells not up to standard, but they're also much more expensive. Looking at this site, one sees that quantum dots are horribly expensive - how is solar energy going to compete with wind or nuclear?