A “spray-on” photovoltaic sensitive to infrared rays has been created that could allow the development of solar cells that harness far more of the Sun’s radiant energy than existing technology.

Researcher Ted Sargent at the University of Toronto in Ontario, Canada and colleagues made the material using tiny particles of semiconductor crystals. “The nanoparticles were so small they remained dispersed in everyday solvents just like the particles in paint,” says Sargent.

By tuning the tiny crystals to catch light at short wavelengths, Sargent and colleagues crated a spray-on infrared detector. Existing light-sensitive materials for solar cells and related applications only work in the visible light spectrum, says Sargent.

According to American researcher Peter Peumans of Stanford University in California, who reviewed the new research, along with further improvements in efficiency, photovoltaics that work in the infrared and visible spectrum could allow up to 30% of the Sun’s radiant energy to be harnessed compared to 6% in the best plastic solar cells available today.

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