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Scientists Set World Record for Conversion of Solar Energy to Electricity Using Quantum Dots

Engineers made quantum dot solar cells that can be made into flexible, thin films, and generate electricity in low-light conditions.

Thanks to a significant breakthrough at The University of Queensland, it might be possible for us to generate power on homes, cars, and phones with highly efficient flexible solar “skins.”

The engineers have been studying nanoparticles known as quantum dots that pass electrons and generate an electrical current when exposed to solar energy. The team, led by Lianzhou Wang, achieved 16.6% efficiency with the quantum dot solar cell after numerous tests. The previous record in the category was 13.4%.

These advancements open a door of tremendous potential for the future of solar cell technology. The nearly 25% rate in improvement might make the technology commercially viable and cut carbon dioxide emissions.

Since current solar technologies use rigid and expensive material, this revolutionary solar “skins” is a significant step towards a new future. The surface of the quantum dots tends to be unstable and rough, which makes them less efficient at converting solar energy into electrical current. The new class of quantum dots is flexible and printable which means that we can use them as transparent skin to power cars, planes, homes, and wearable technology.

Moreover, the new class of quantum dots could “play a major part in meeting the United Nations’ goal to increase the share of renewable energy in the global energy mix.”

In contrast to traditional solar cell technology, they are lightweight, flexible, and able to work in weaker lights. In addition, they will be relatively cheap to produce. This was achieved by making a unique surface engineering technology.

Wang says the team’s new goal will be further breaking the world record. They hope to develop a product that could be in the market for small appliances like phones in two years. Within three to five years, the new technology might be compatible with large-scale power for rooftop solars.

The findings have been published in the Journal Nature Energy.

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