"Material Could Collect Sunlight from Roof and Windows"
You've probably heard of thin-film solar power, but scientists from Los Alamos and Brookhaven National Laboratories made new light-harvesting material that's actually transparent. Solar electricity from the whole house, anyone? A team led by physical chemist Mircea Cotlet created a transparent thin film using a relatively simple process. As James Rickman of Los Alamos National Laboratory explained to me, it involved taking a standard polymer -- plastic -- and spiking it with soccer-ball shaped 60-carbon-atom spheres called fullerenes, better known as "buckyballs" after Buckminster Fuller. Their research was just published in the journal Chemistry of Materials. While the material design isn't Earth-shattering, Rickman says the novelty is in the transparency. "The way that these things line up, you get this honeycomb-shaped pattern that's like a screen from a screen door," he says. The transparent effect is caused when micron-sized water droplets are sprayed across a thin layer of the buckyball-plastic solution. The water and solution naturally create a concentration of semiconducting material in the pattern as the water evaporates.