Toronto University Unveils New Solar Power Plastic

January 10, 2005 by Jeff Shepard

A new plastic material has been created at the University of Toronto that manages to produce energy from infrared light. Solar panels up until now have only been able to harness power from the visible light spectrum, but this new material allows solar technology to go beyond just visible light. It is also five times more efficient than conventional solar technology converting 30% of solar energy compared to 6% gained from other plastic-based solar panels.

The material is formed by combining minute particles called "quantum dots" with a polymer to create a form of plastic. It is only a few nanometres thick, but is able to "catch" solar energy, which can then be used to power or recharge devices. The range of devices it can be used on is far wider than standard solar panels due to the fact it can be combined with solvents and applied like a layer of paint meaning any surface, including electronic devices, could be covered in the material. There is also potential for it to be added to clothing making your entire outfit a source of energy.

Currently the research is receiving interest from venture capitalists to help develop the technology, such as Lux Capital, which has stated it will probably be five years before we see the technology, but that it currently has boundless uses. The new technolgy could solve the problem of having to constantly recharge portable electronic devices.