Solar cells from a spray can are just three to five years away, according to researchers at the University of Texas at Austin.
Brian Korgel has developed inks with a university research team that are made of nanoparticles of copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) that are 10,000 times thinner than a strand of hair.
These can then be printed onto sheets at a much cheaper cost than current methods of producing solar panels.
"We'd have some sort of flexible substrate, maybe plastic or metal foil, and it would be on a spool and be unrolled. And the nanocrystals would be sprayed on," Matthew Panthani, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in Korgel's lab, told the LiveScience Web site.
The inks today can convert 1 percent of the sunlight that hits them cell into electricity.
"If we get to 10 percent, then there's real potential for commercialization," Korgel told LiveScience. "If it works, I think you could see it being used in three to five years."
Korgel co-founded Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Innovalight Inc., but left that company in 2005. Innovalight is working on silicon-based solar cell printing technology which a spokesman said is completely different from what the Texas researchers are working on.
Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal