Australian researchers have made a ground breaking discovery that could revolutionize the way solar energy is harvested.
Professor Max Lu, from University of Queensland‘s Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) said they have done what was previously thought of as “almost impossible”. That is, they have grown the world’s first titanium oxide single crystals with large amounts of reactive surfaces.
Professor Lu says “Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar decontamination of pollutants.” He goes on to say “the beauty of our technique is that it is very simple and cheap to make such materials at mild conditions.”
Affordable solar energy isn’t the only potential benefit to be had from this discovery. The crystals are also great for purifying water and air. The crystals could be painted onto a window or wall in order to purify the air in a room.
Professor Lu estimated that air and water pollution applications could be commercially available in 5 years. He said that the solar energy conversion would take a bit longer – between 5 to 10 years.
The work wasn’t done in isolation by the University of Queensland though. Professor Lu said that it was a result of a collaboration with Professor Huiming Cheng’s group from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
It’s great to see that potential solutions are emerging to reduce the cost of harvesting and using solar energy. Another solution for affordable solar panels (also developed in Australia) is SLIVER technology, developed by the Centre For Sustainable Energy Systems, which is part of the Australian National University.