Solar breakthrough – the world’s first titanium oxide nano crystals.

A team from the University of Queensland has grown the world’s first titanium oxide nano crystals. Their invention is set to impact the way solar energy is harvested and used and will have benefits for other uses as well.

This breakthrough could bring solar power within the means of the consumer because the miniature crystals are highly efficient yet cheap and easy to produce and it will make solar energy more cost-effective. The high cost of solar energy as a renewable energy source has been the main barrier to its growth. The University of Queensland quotes Professor Lu,from UQ’s Australian Institute of Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) as saying:

“Highly active surfaces in such crystals allow high reactivity and efficiency in devices used for solar energy conversion and hydrogen production. Titania nano-crystals are promising materials for cost-effective solar cells, hydrogen production from splitting water, and solar decontamination of pollutants.
The beauty of our technique is that it is very simple and cheap to make such materials at mild conditions.
Now that the research has elucidated the conditions required, the method is like cooking in an oven and the crystals can be applied like paints.”

Professor Lu admits that the technology is in its early stages and foresees it will take 10 years to bring it onto the market. However, at a time when climate change is calling for new renewable sources of energy, this innovation may help the uptake of solar energy more quickly.

At a time when the Australian government has put a cap on funding solar energy technology, this breakthrough is most welcome, especially if it is able to reduce the cost of solar cell technology. The need for any research which can make solar energy more cost-effective will encourage people living in sun blessed lands like Australia to change from fossil fuels. This would be a definite plus for the environment.

Beyond this, Professor Lu sees applications of this technology in other areas water purification and recycling as well. The prospects then are very promising indeed.


The sun barely peeks above the northern horizon for a few minutes in early spring. This photo was taken from Pegasus White Ice Runway looking towards Ross Island.

Fleeting sunrise.

Photograph by: Chad Carpenter, National Science Foundation. Date Taken: August 23, 2006.


~ by abstraktbiblos on Monday, 2 June, 2008.

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