Many alternatives to building solar cells have already been discovered, such as using spinach, but some recent discoveries by scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) invented a new type of solar cell made from nanocrystals.
These nanocrystals are apparently so tiny that you can fit 250 billion of them on a head of a pin, which is relevant because they can be made into an ink and then painted or printed on other surfaces. Theoretically you’ll be able to paint for example a plastic or even paper surface which would be able to gather solar power, and I’m sure you don’t need me to say how many possible benefits and practical applications this may have. These nano solar cells are not only convenient but also cheaper to produce than traditional silicon solar cells in use today.
“While the commercialization of this technology is still years away, we see a clear path forward toward integrating this into the next generation of solar cell technologies,” said Richard L. Brutchey, assistant professor of chemistry at USC. “…like you print a newspaper, you can print solar cells.”
There are a couple of downsides to this new discovery, as there always is. First these solar cells aren’t able to gather sunlight efficiently, and second the cadmium selenide coating used for them is toxic and can’t be used commercially. However it’s very likely that scientists will continue discovering alternatives to cadmium coating and improving the technology further, and in a few decades this will likely be a reality with everyday use.