paneles-solaresNumerosos científicos en muchas partes del mundo están tratando de desarrollar células solares orgánicas que puedan ser fabricadas con facilidad y a bajo coste, en forma de películas delgadas con las que cubrir superficies sobre las que incidan los rayos del sol. Este enfoque permitiría que la energía solar se utilizase muchísimo más que ahora, convirtiéndola en una fuente decisiva para el suministro eléctrico.

Sin embargo, un serio obstáculo en el camino hacia esa meta es lograr que estos materiales basados en el carbono formen la estructura apropiada a nanoescala para hacer posible esa conversión de alta eficacia de la luz en electricidad. La meta es desarrollar células solares fáciles de fabricar, hechas de plásticos baratos, y que transformen al menos el 10 por ciento de la luz que absorban en electricidad cuyo aprovechamiento resulte viable.

Un equipo de investigación dirigido por el químico David Ginger de la Universidad de Washington, ha encontrado un modo de estudiar detalladamente burbujas y canales diminutos, unas 10.000 veces más delgados que un cabello humano, dentro de células solares hechas de plástico. Estas burbujas y canales se forman dentro de los polímeros durante una de las fases del proceso de fabricación de éstos.
Los investigadores son capaces de medir directamente cuánta corriente transporta cada burbuja o canal. Gracias a ello podrán desarrollar un conocimiento exacto de cómo una célula solar convierte luz en electricidad. Ginger cree que esta línea de investigación permitirá averiguar qué materiales creados bajo qué condiciones son los más prometedores para hacer posible esa meta del 10 por ciento de eficiencia en la conversión fotoeléctrica.
Cuando los científicos alcancen esa meta de eficiencia, o se aproximen a ella lo suficiente, comenzará la producción a gran escala de esas células solares plásticas con nanoestructura trabajada. La primera oleada de estas células seguramente estará diseñada para su uso en mochilas, riñoneras, bolsos y demás enseres por el estilo, para permitir la recarga de dispositivos comunes que funcionan con pilas, como teléfonos móviles o reproductores de mp3: Pero las sucesivas oleadas acabarán desatando una revolución en el suministro eléctrico a domicilios y lugares de trabajo.

Hacer que las células solares tengan una conversión fotoeléctrica lo más eficiente posible es crucial para conseguir que sean rentables y la factura de la electricidad que paguemos no suba a cotas inaceptables.

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