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Innovation: Solar Paint

The concept of solar paint is one of the recent innovations emerging from the paints and coatings industry. This could be a game changer when it comes to producing sustainable alternative energy and although it is not yet available commercially, the potential is huge.


Basically, solar paint is a liquid with photovoltaic (PV) properties that allows it to absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. Paint it on a piece of glass or other surface that has circuitry attached, and you have your own solar cells.



How Solar Paint Works

Solar paint uses perovskite, a promising crystalline mineral compound that can harvest light. Cheap to produce and as efficient as silicon cells in capturing the sun's energy, perovskite solar cells are the leading technology to replace or compete against crystalline silicon solar cells. One current drawback is their lack of longevity compared to silicon-based PV.


Perovskite solar paint can potentially be used on many building surfaces, window glass, rooftops, vehicles, or indeed practically any type of surface.


Other forms of solar paint include an innovative technology that absorbs water vapor and splits it to generate hydrogen, which can allow buildings to produce their own heating fuel; “quantum dots,” which use nanocrystals (essentially tiny glass beads) and quantum mechanics to enhance regular solar cells' ability to produce an electric current by up to 20%; and silicone-based paints used in concentrated solar power plants to increase the absorption of solar energy.


Benefits

One of the environmental benefits of solar paint is the speed with which it can be produced and applied. The paint is applied in the same way a copy machine or printing press works.


But solar paints need not convert sunlight into electricity in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Air conditioning uses significant amounts of electricity and this is expected to increase as global temperatures increase. Paints made with “passive radiative cooling” properties can shed sunlight and reduce surface temperatures of roofs and exterior walls of buildings by 10.8 degrees F. This could allow buildings to reduce their cooling costs by up to 15%, helping to reduce carbon emissions.


The downside Perovskite-based solar paints is that they use a lead-based absorber which can be dangerous if released into the environment. Ways of managing this challenge and lead alternatives are being investigated but as yet this remains an issue.


Will Solar Paint Be Widely Available?

Solar paints are still not available commercially although the race is on to bring solar paints to market. It may still be a while until these coatings are available but the possibility of painting your house with a paint that will help keep the lights on and protects the earth is definitely on the cards.


[Information sourced: Treehugger]


Chemgrit Coatings supplies a variety of raw materials and additives to the paints and coatins industry. For more information contact Chemgrit Coatings on www.chemgritsa.co.za or athol@chemgritsa.co.za.


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