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New, Organic Material can be Applied to Building Exteriors to Capture Sunlight Part 1

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Imagine a house that can utilize solar energy without installing solar panels. Researchers at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) are on the brink of a scientific breakthrough that hopes to change the way we capture sunlight for our energy needs using a new, organic photovoltaic material that can be applied to the surface—not just the roof—of any building. If this emerging technology can reach its potential, every home could provide for their energy needs solely with sunlight. In this two-part article, the Naples construction attorneys at Cotney Construction Law will explore this exciting development and discuss how this new technology could affect future construction projects.

Renewable Energy is the Future

According to the Department of Energy, approximately 72 percent of all electricity consumed in the United States is from buildings. Although society has made considerable advancements in renewable energy solutions like solar energy and wind power, there is still a need for even more sustainable technologies due to the sheer amount of energy being utilized in the United States and across the globe. In order to cut greenhouse gas emissions, society needs to stop relying on the burning of fossil fuels for their energy needs. Limited reserves of these crude oils means that global supplies will eventually be depleted. Some estimates claim that global oil reserves will be exhausted by as soon as 2052.

Advancing Photovoltaic Cell Technology

Photovoltaic cells are the foundation of solar energy technology. The semiconductive material in every solar panel helps convert sunlight into energy for buildings, but these panels are traditionally installed on roofs exclusively. That is because traditional photovoltaic roof-mounted solar panels are made from slabs of silicon, which makes them a relatively easy install for roofs but a challenge for the remaining surface area of a building. And although current technology is efficient, it can be expensive, which means solar is only feasible for certain owners. So, how can researchers make solar more adaptable and less expensive? The answer: organic molecules.

Organic Solar Cells

Using organic molecules to create “organic” solar cells can help cut costs and improve the efficacy of solar technology as compared to traditional photovoltaic cells. These molecules, which can be dissolved into an ink-like substance, will be “printed” onto thin sheets that can then be installed on windows, walls, or roofs.

Nicola Gasparini, one author of the KAUST study, told Newsweek: “As opposed to most inorganic photovoltaics, such as silicon, organic devices can be printed from a solution on plastic substrates, allowing for extremely thin, lightweight and elastic products that can be manufactured over large areas with freedom of shape.”

To learn about the drawbacks of this cutting-edge technology, read part two.

If you would like to speak with a Naples construction lawyer, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.