Solar Energy

Researchers are making an effort to find a lower-cost source of household energy for the nation's future. They are exploring the creation of nanoscale devices on the molecular level that can convert sunlight into electric current. Scientists have invented a plastic solar cell that can turn the sun's power into electrical energy, even on a cloudy day. The plastic material uses nanotechnology and contains solar cells able to harness the sun's invisible, infrared rays. Like paint, the composite can be sprayed onto other materials and used as a portable source of electricity. A sweater coated in the material could power a cell phone or other wireless devices.

However, the idea of using nanostructures to convert sunlight into electricity is still theoretical. The main concern is that the present cost of electricity produced by solar cells is four times greater than electricity produced by nuclear or fossil fuels. Many companies and government agencies are funding much research in solar projects, which indicates there is an increasing interest in this field by the scientific community and corporations. See Chapter 8 for more information about solar cells.

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