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Solar Paint? There’s a Ton of Energy Going into the Idea


By Harold Hower

In this blog I like to talk technology—the kind that’s on the fringe of practical application, maybe even on the fringe of consciousness. Just think, for instance, about the progression of the computer’s physical manifestations.

Early on a computer filled a room, then only a portion of a room. Then it sat on your desk, then it jumped into your briefcase, and now it’s in your pocket. Still a bit bulky, though, isn’t it? Why not incorporate it into the body? Isn’t that just a continuation of the trend?

Similarly, I’ve been talking and thinking about the multi-functionality of paint. Aesthetics and protection from the elements is probably the base multi-functionality. If you take reflective roof coatings, then you’ve added another function: energy savings. On a flat roof, aesthetic value may be diminished, but on a metal steep-slope roof, the aesthetic properties remain important, in spades.

Now, take this 3-function coating to a 4-function one by making the coating itself a solar collector. What you’ve got is thin-film technology at its finest.

In the article, “Thin-film Solar Panels: Getting a Charge Out of Solar ‘Paint’, which appeared recently in Mother Nature Network,  the work of Brian Korgel and a team of nanomaterials chemists at the University of Texas is described.

This “new breed of chemical engineers, looking for answers to the world’s big problems,” is tackling the issue of making solar-collection cells “light, flexible, efficient, and affordable,” the article says.

One direction of their work is painting thin-film nanomaterial-based inorganic coatings onto substrates that might function as roofing material as well as solar collectors, for instance.

As for the human energy going into this effort, at the lab of Korgel and his colleagues as well as other laboratories throughout the country, consider his words: “Everyone realizes this is a major problem, and so many people want to see it solved and are incredibly enthusiastic and supportive of the scientific and engineering community. And it’s inspiring. What it’s given me is a deep appreciation of how important this problem of meeting energy sustainability is. It drives you further on to try and meet that need.”

So here is the real energy that’s going to solve the energy problem—intelligence, imagination, and a desire to have an impact on the sustainability of the built environment.


Harold Hower

Harold Hower, CEO and founder of Technology Publishing Company, likes to think about ways of improving conditions in the architectural coatings industry.



Tagged categories: Coatings Technology; Energy efficiency; Solar

Comment from Brad Johnosn, (8/14/2012, 4:12 PM)

Great thoughts Harold. The use of solar control window films has been around for almost 2 decades so it seems that solar coatings on rooftops seems like a natural transgression similar to your evolution of the computer idea.

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