Trust Solar Paints? Sure Can

By Rich Bowden

Honouring our commitment to keep readers informed of the pointy end of current solar research, this week’s column brings you the latest breakthrough on… paint.

Yes that’s right. Solar paint.

The incredible advance has been made possible by researchers at the U.S. University of Notre Dame who announced the feat in a December 21 press release which described a future when a lick of paint on your house will be able to generate electricity from the sun. However it may be a while before you can nip down to your local hardware store and pick up a few tins of solar paint to give the house a face lift. The Notre Dame release describes the work done on the project as a “major advance” which in academic terms could mean anything from a first draft to a blueprint.

Still. in a sign that the skilled use of the pun is alive and well in the halls of American academia, the research team has labelled the paint “Sun-Believable” (get it?) which indicates to your columnist that the marketing for the breakthrough product is being run by the team’s grandads. If so I can’t wait for the ads…

But back to the solar paint. How does it actually work?

Describing the process as “transformative” lead researcher Prof. Prashant V. Kamat said the team started the project with an aim to “move beyond current silicon-based solar technology”.

“By incorporating power-producing nanoparticles, called quantum dots, into a spreadable compound, we’ve made a one-coat solar paint that can be applied to any conductive surface without special equipment,” he said.

While somewhat behind the efficiency curve of current commercial silicon solar cells Prof. Kamat said that the “… paint can be made cheaply and in large quantities. If we can improve the efficiency… we may be able to make a real difference in meeting energy needs in the future.”

He said he and his team will now go on to study the stability of the paint.

On that note I’d like to wish you all a happy, safe and healthy festive break, and thanks for reading this column during 2011.


  1. An increasing demand for energy coupled with the rapidly increasing energy requirements means that it is vital that we in India expand our renewable energy resources. Our vision is to develop a new technology needed to provide low cost solar energy at the disposal of every household and every business and military areas.

    Organic solar cells offer the a prospect of generating electricity from paint coatings that can be applied at extremely low cost to any surface such as exterior walls of a building, vehicles like Car, Bus, and Trains and appliance on surfaces which will generate electricity. Such a paint would not only be environmentally friendly but allow every household to generate their own electricity. This would involve the development of an organic solar cell based on conducting organic chemicals dispersed in water. Essentially these tiny molecules in suspension are a water-based paint, which can be painted as a clear coat over any surface over large areas.

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