The United Kingdom, with its typically unpredictable and rainy climate, may not seem like the ideal setting to produce solar powered energy.
However, scientists in Australia claim to have developed technology that can produce solar energy - even when it's cloudy and wet.
Cheaper and more energy efficient
Researchers say their co-called “British-weatherproof” technology is cheaper, more energy efficient and more flexible than traditional solar panels. Best of all, it can convert solar energy to electricity in low light conditions.
The team believes their work - published last month in the journal Nature Energy - represents a “significant step” towards making the technology commercially viable and contributing towards global renewable energy targets.
Professor Lianzhou Wang, from the University of Queensland in Australia, who led the research, said, “Essentially, we’ve developed solar technology that is British weather proof. It can produce energy indoors or even when it is cloudy and wet."
“It is also printable, flexible and transparent – meaning it could be used as a skin to power next generation electric cars or applied as a film to windows on buildings and homes.”
What are quantum dots?
The technology uses tiny nanoparticles – called quantum dots – that are about five billionths of a metre in size and can be put into liquid form and printed onto surfaces, where they harden to form a flexible layer.
When exposed to solar energy in a solar cell device, these quantum dots pass electrons between one another to generate electrical currents.
While conventional solar cells can work under cloudy conditions, Professor Wang said quantum dot solar cells are better at producing energy because they absorb a broader spectrum of solar light compared to conventional solar cells.
He said this makes quantum dot solar cells around 20 per cent more efficient in low-light conditions than conventional solar cells.
25% improvement in solar cell efficiency
Professor Wang also claimed to have achieved a 25 per cent improvement in solar cell efficiency over the previous world record.
He said, “This opens up a huge range of potential applications, including the possibility to use it as a transparent skin to power planes, homes and wearable technology.
“This new generation of quantum dots is compatible with more affordable and large-scale printable technologies.”