“This work is a great example of fulfilling the promise of nanoscience and nanotechnology,” Weiss says. “By developing the means to tune the properties of nanomaterials, Sargent and his co-workers have been able to make significant improvements in an important device function, namely capturing a broader range of the solar spectrum more effectively.”
At this point, the main benefit would not necessarily be taking out the need to plug in altogether, but to augment power from the grid and to extend usage while unplugged. If you’re curious, you can check out Alta Devices’ battery life extension calculator, to determine how much you can extend your battery life. If you’re mostly outdoors and if you carry your phone on your belt, this could be as much as an 83% extension. Students with time spent outdoors get about 54% extension of their battery life.
Another potential market is the automobile. The surface area of a car will not allow enough electricity production to run the motors that power an electric car. But increasingly, some ancillary functions, like power steering or power brake pumps, or air-conditioning, are performed by electric motors, to lower the load on the internal combustion engine and improve gas mileage. Cells on the car roof could help with that, he said.
The new technique developed by Sargent’s group shows a possible 35 per cent increase in the technology’s efficiency in the near-infrared spectral region, says co-author Dr. Susanna Thon. Overall, this could translate to an 11 per cent solar power conversion efficiency increase, she says, making quantum dot photovoltaics even more attractive as an alternative to current solar cell technologies.
While this would be a great addition to smartphones in the developed world, the real benefit would be in emerging markets, where mobile devices have proliferated faster than the electricity grid, reports the New York Times.
They say inspiration can come from the most unlikely places. For a scientist at the Palo Alto Research Center, the Xerox-owned lab in Silicon Valley best known as PARC, it came from a tube of toothpaste.