Photovoltaic spray paint turns steel into solar panels

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September 29, 2011

By Bob Difley

solar-spray-paintA European steel company and a university in Wales are putting their collective heads together to develop a spray-on coating that would  transform sheets of steel into solar panels. No Joke.

Not only that, but it is efficient, also, with the ability to work even in diffused sunlight. Perfect for states (and countries) in the higher latitudes and those without much bright sunlight.

Forward-lookers ate visualizing the automotive industry where photo-sensitive dyes could be applied to generate electricity to split water into hydrogen and oxygen for fuel cells.

Imagine the applications of such a product. No more need to invest thousands of dollars in not-so efficient solar panels for your RV’s roof, and–get this–no range limit for electric vehicles. No more need for users of smart phones, laptop, iPads, or other devices to cart around power cables to re-charge. The power options could be limitless.

Fat chance you think? Another hair-brained idea from 20-something science majors who have been smoking something. Think again, if you think the spray-on solar technology is years away from reality.

The technology of  ‘printing’ these dyes onto steel sheets has already been mastered by a subsidiary of the European steel maker, which is working on a new plant for the production of these steel sheets. They didn’t say whether the spray-on would work on fiberglass. I can’t imagine making RVs out of steel plates just to turn them into giant solar panels. But–you never know . . .

Check out my website for more usable RVing tips and destinations and for my ebooks, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands, Snowbird Guide to Boondocking in the Southwestern Deserts (now available in a Kindle version), and 111 Ways to Get the Biggest Bang out of your RV Lifestyle Dollar (also in Kindle version).

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  10. You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this topic to be really something that I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and extremely broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I’ll try to get the hang of it!

  11. The things I have questions about is 1) can I spray on my existing steel roof of my motor home, or does the spray go on an sheet that is insulated on the backside to prevent grounding out? (Or can I paint an insulator layer on, then apply this spray?)

    2) Also, where would my output.connector pin-ports go?

    3) Will I be getting the full supply of photo-voltaic energy per square inch/foot/yard or is there a loss factor to consider? What would need to be done to insure an optimum output (other than being in direct sunlight!) ??

    I’m just trying to wrap my head around applying this to my existing rig, and what it will take to make this spray paint work properly. Any websites or stores that you can link me to would be greatly appreciated!

  12. butterbean carpenter

    Howdy Bob,
    What are you growing and smoking out there in the’ boondocks’, hah?? Paint-on
    solar panels!!! My big barn will run this whole ranch and then what will the co-op
    people do for a living… Where are the electric RVs from Winnebago, that were tried in California a couple of years ago?? Never heard another word about them!!!
    I think people just shoot you their wild ideas to see them in print…

    Smooth roads, clear skies & balmy breezes!!!!!!!!!

  13. Geoffrey Pruett

    This will still have to prove out under real world conditions but having been driving since the 50’s I can remember the changes to mobile electical systems since then. When was the last time your car left you stranded because of ignition failure? I still remember prying the points apart and resetting the gap with a business card. No longer and little missed. The people who installed the first electronic ignition were laughed at, any one still laughing. Have a certificate to install solar panels which consist of exotic electonic controls mating a piece of pure physics, the panel, to the real world. These panels keep improving as fast as the processor in computers. Already in production are thin film solar panels meant to be installed flat on the roof. If the paint on system works it will rework our energy production systems in a major way expanding the areas usefull for farming and living space. Thank heavens for people who believe in trying.

  14. G Shea

    The surface area of the vehicle is unlikely to produce much current unless they makers of this product have found a way to radically increase the current per inch rate for solar power, at least in small cars. Large motorhome roofs and sides could produce large amounts of power-great for dry camping. I doubt it will make huge enough power to charge drive batteries for all electric, but it could sure help!
    G Shea

  15. Awesome, and it can’t get on the market soon enough for me! Now, if we can reduce the weight of wet batteries and get the same or better life out of them, I will be in little pig heaven!