Nanotechnology for Green Building: Solar Manufacturing

Recent breakthroughs in nanotechnology have started to offer a real tough competition to the traditional silicon-based solar manufacturing. In fact, nanotechnology ventures to replace silicon technology within a few years. According to the estimate published by the Department of Energy, over 50% of the electrical needs of buildings in the U.S. can be easily met by installing Building Integrated Photovoltaics (BIPV) systems. BIPV refers to the use of photovoltaic materials that are used to replace traditional construction materials.

During the recent past, NanoSolar sector has attracted investments worth more than $100 million from capital powerhouses and individual patrons like Google for instance. NanoSolar is an amazing technology where solar cells manufactured employing this technology can be literally printed on either plastic or metal. One would even be surprised to note that the process of integrating solar into a building is much simpler than printing a document. Thanks to the amazing nanotechnology, a major advance further has been achieved over the process of installing costly glass panels on the rooftops.

The manufacturing process of solar sheets employing nanotechnology is amazingly cost effective and simple working out to just one tenth of the price spent on the traditional solar panels. The production rate of solar sheets can be drastically enhanced making hundreds of feet every minute. Under full production in 2008, NanoSolar can produce even up to 430 MW of solar cells in a matter of just one year. The main components of solar-electric carpets are semi-conductor quantum dots and nanoparticles. These are called SolarPly BIPV, which can be very easily incorporated into the roofing membranes.

Several important companies have entered into this arena manufacturing PV solar panels that can easily be integrated into buildings. Some of the notable companies in this line are Helio Volt, Konarka, Spire, Innovalight, and Solexant. In addition, STMicroelectronics is a remarkable player in the field focusing on creating and employing nanotech applications into the production of solar cells.

Spire Corp is another company that is venturing into the integration of nano solar technology into windows. Its nanostructured materials help in the efficient fabricating of solar cells. This method enables the availability of solar in different colors. This is indeed useful for the architects to work on various options to improve aesthetics.

Since the existing solar cell technologies rely on semiconductor materials like silicon, they involve high material costs. Surprisingly, the total cost of solar-generated electricity over 20 years through conventional photovoltaic systems is around ten times more than the price of electricity generated from fossil fuels. However, the complete organic approach is the unique specialty and advantage of the ST team helping to drastically reduce the production cost of solar cells. In this manufacturing process, a mixture of materials that accept electron and organic materials that accept electron is meticulously integrated in-between two electrodes. This set up presents an ideal nanostructure for this blend since the electron-donor and electron-acceptor materials need to be maintained in an intimate contact within a distance of not more than 10 nm.

The market of solar electricity is just zooming ahead. Global shipments of PV modules and cells are growing at an average rate of more than 35% in a year. Not far from now, we can certainly expect that the global photovoltaic market can cater to mass requirements through high-volume industrial production.

Green Tech Forum


Nanotechnology in drug delivery systems

Nanotechnology has been instrumental in promoting certain valuable innovations in the manufacturing of drugs and drug delivery systems.

Non-invasive, micellar nanoparticle technology is known to deliver the drug encapsulated in tiny emulsion particles right into the skin. The micellar nanoparticles get deposited in the outermost skin layer while rubbing, thereby functionally producing a drug depot. The emulsion deposits the active drug into the epidermis and stratum corneum. Gradually, the drug diffuses into the deeper layers of the skin till it reaches the blood stream. Estrasorb, developed by Novavax, is one product that uses this nanoparticle technology to deliver estrogen in a lotion product to be used for treating the symptoms of menopause.

The nanocrystal technology innovated by Elan enables the formulation of compounds that are poorly water soluble besides improving their compound activity and final product characteristics. Interestingly, their NanoCrystal Ò technology can be introduced into all dosage forms both oral and parenteral and oral, also including liquid, solid, fast-melt, controlled release and pulsed release forms. The principle involved in this technology is quite interesting. Poor water solubility causes slow dissolution rate. Therefore, decreasing the size of particles shall increase the surface area, leading to a dramatic increase in the rate of dissolution. This is what is achieved by efficiently by employing NanoCrystal Ò technology. NanoCrystal Ò particles are tiny particles of drug substance, amazingly lesser than 1000 nanometers (nm) in diameter. They are produced through wet-milling technique. The NanoCrystal Ò particles forming part of the drug are ably stabilized against agglomeration through surface absorption of selected stabilizers. The resulting aqueous dispersion substance clearly behaves like a solution that can be further processed into finished dosage forms for all modes of administration.

BioSilicon, from Psvidia, is an amazingly simple product used as advanced drug delivery system. Despite the delivery characteristics imparted by the process of nanostructuring, the product does not require complex chemistry unlike most polymer-based drug delivery systems. The final product is pure silicon. The product has an additional advantage over several others in terms of its radiation and heat stability, thereby simplifying sterilization and manufacturing.