Nanotechnology and Quantum Dots - solar power from infrared sources
Quantum Dots - Converting the infrared portion
of the sun's energy spectrum into electricity
by Adrian Biffen
(for complementary boating products such as 12v lighting control and 12v motorized blinds and shades, see our RV &
boat automation DIY kit store)
A nanometer is one billionth of a meter and scientists at the University of Toronto in
January, 2005 announced the creation of a new spray-on solar panel technology using particles of this size.
These particles, called 'Quantum Dots', with a width of about three or four nanometers, can be combined with a
polymer to capture the longer wavelengths of light in the infrared spectrum to produce electricity.
Conventional solar panels capture and convert energy into DC from the visible light spectrum - not infrared, so
this development taps into an entirely new source of energy, which could possibly produce efficiencies that are
5 times that of today's existing technology. The ability to literally spray it on to a deck raises the
possibility of converting all the exposed areas on your boat into a giant solar panel!
Scientists predict that this technology could be available within five years because the production techniques
do not require clean rooms and vacuum systems that the current silicon wafer technologies require during the
This development has implications that reach far beyond boating applications. Ted Sargent, a computer and
electrical engineering professor at the University of Toronto (one of the scientists that invented the Quantum
Dot approach to solar conversion), said "The sun that reaches the Earth's surface delivers 10,000 times more
energy than we consume. If we could cover 0.1 percent of the Earth's surface with large-area solar cells, we
could in principle replace all of our energy habits with a source of power which is clean and
Furthermore, this Quantum Dot polymer can be woven into fabrics, raising the possibility of having truly
portable electronics, like a cellphone charged directly on your body from sources of infrared radiation (i.e.
This is good news at a time when we know that oil supplies are a dwindling commodity, not to mention the
adverse political and environmental impacts of fossil fuels.
* * * * *
Quantum dots are semiconductor crystals that range typically between 1 and 10 nanometers in diameter and have
unique properties between that of single molecules and bulk materials. Quantum dots offer tunable optical and
electronic properties that can work around natural limits inherent in traditional semiconductors. Solar power
is only one of the many ways this new technology can be utilized - for example, a new generation of super high
efficiency LED lighting systems will soon be available.
Our Navitrol system has been designed to run primarily on solar power, and we will be following and
reporting on this technology with keen interest as it develops.